She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus: and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild, which time and care would be sure to alleviate. (Jane Eyre)

Does ‘understood’ take ‘something’ as its direct object, or is its object – it (consumption) – dropped? (If the former is right, what's the meaning of understood, then?)

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    Quite right: "I understood something mild by consumption" = "I understood consumption to be something mild" – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 5 '13 at 2:59
  • @StoneyB So something is direct object (which implies consumption) and mild is objective complement, aren't they? – Listenever Mar 5 '13 at 3:37
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    @Listenever: If you want to call something an "objective complement", I suggest you reserve that label for "which time and care would be sure to alleviate." It would be easier just to call "mild" an adjective modifying "something". Basically, consumption is something [mild, etc] is Subject+Copula+Predicate. – FumbleFingers Mar 5 '13 at 3:44
  • Mild is simply an adjective modifying something. Something, anything, everything, unlike most pronouns, take modifiers, but they are usually post-posited: something mild, anything red, everything hateful. Another way of saying it is some mild thing, any red thing, every hateful thing. Informal speech tolerates a little something, but that is jocular and 'cute'. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 5 '13 at 3:46

You could rewrite understood something mild to understood it to be something mild.
Here it (the illness) is the subject. It's implied in your example.
"something mild" is a predicate adjective since we have an intransitive verb. It modifies the subject (the illness).

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    Er ... not quite. Something is a pronoun, not an adjective; mild is an adjective modifying something. In your rewrite, it is the subject not of the sentence but of the non-finite clause which is the direct object of understood, and something mild is (in Bas Aarts' terminology) a Subject-related Predicative Complement of that non-finite clause. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 5 '13 at 3:39
  • @StoneyB Regarding "something mild", you are correct. oops... Regarding "it", I did not specify the subject of what. My intention was that it was the subject of the clause. – user485 Mar 5 '13 at 4:11

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