Right from the get-go - I'm not a native speaker, so be understanding ;-), in my native polish the premium is placed on the form of the part of the speech, not in the distribution, that is, the part of the speech is called, e.g., a noun because it has the form of a noun, the distribution is meaningless. English works otherwise, e.g.,

a) The book I recommended provides information concerning the topic.

In English just because we can replace concerning with at least two prepositions, e.g., about or on, concerning will not be a participle phrase, but a preposition or an participle preposition. In Polish it would always be a participle phrase no matter the distribution. Ok, so in the example from the headline:

b) I said to him that we needed to leave soon

the book English Grammar Drills by Mark Lester says that to him is a plain prepositional phrase followed by a that-clause which is of course a noun phrase (may be replaced by it). However, I think that when we change the order a bit having:

c) I mentioned that we needed to leave soon to him / I said that we needed to leave soon to him

to him is an object complement and not a prepositional phrase but an infinitive phrase, plus that-clause is a direct object and still a noun phrase

That is my rationale behind this: To him follows and modifies the direct object of the verb mentioned, which is the that clause. It does not receive the that clause, but specifies to whom the information was mentioned. For example:

d) I mentioned what? I mentioned that we needed to leave soon.

(that we needed to leave soon is the direct object of the verb mentioned, providing the content of what was mentioned)

e) I mentioned that we needed to leave soon to whom? I mentioned that we needed to leave soon to him.

(to him is the object complement of the verb mentioned, modifying the direct object that we needed to leave soon)

So overall, to him would be an infinitive phrase and an object complement - not a prepositional phrase which would be a direct object of the verb mentioned...

  • native Polish :) How can "to him" be an infinitive clause? The more obvious "mentioned to him that we needed etc." is not there...
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 13 at 16:32
  • How can "to him" be an infinitive clause? - corrected it :-)
    – Amadeusz Lis
    Commented Feb 13 at 16:39
  • 'I mentioned that we needed to leave soon to him' / 'I mentioned to him that we needed to leave soon to him' are merely the matrix sentence ''I mentioned that we needed to leave soon' with a 'directional' (ie specifying the addressee) prepositional phrase added. Commented Feb 13 at 16:56
  • to him at the end doesn't really work.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 13 at 19:03
  • @Lambie, "to him" at the end doesn't work in both verbs - "said" and "mentioned"? Commented Feb 13 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


[1] I said [to him] [that we needed to leave soon].

[2] I mentioned [that we needed to leave soon] [to him].

Neither example contains a direct object, so that rules out the possibility of there being an object complement.

In both [1] and [2] the verbs "said" and "mentioned" contain two complements: the preposition phrase "to him" and the content clause "that we needed to leave soon".

The only difference between the two is the linear position of the complements.

  • so what you are saying is that "to him" wouldn't be an object complement, because object complements always refer back the the original direct object, e.g., Ralph considers his boss a fool, his boss=fool, his boss is a fool. But in my example "to him" is not able to refer back to the that-clause, i.e., they don't have the same addressee. Am I right? Commented Feb 13 at 19:07
  • In "Ralph considers [his boss] [a fool]", "a fool" is a predicative complement that is interpreted as predicating the verb's direct object "his boss". Such a complement is sometimes called an "object complement". The predication can be rewritten as a clause of its own, typically with a be verb, e.g. "(Ralph thinks) his boss is a fool". This does not work with the "mentioned" example: It does not make sense to say *That we needed to leave soon was to him.
    – nschneid
    Commented Feb 14 at 1:44
  • @AmadeuszLis The crucial point is that an object complement ascribes some property to a direct object. They consist of noun phrases or adjective phrases, but not preposition phrases, e.g. "They elected him president" (noun) / "We made them happy" (adjective). Note that “president” and “happy” are complements of the verb, not of the direct objects “him”/“them”. The PP “to him" doesn’t do that; rather, it indicates the semantic role of recipient, with “to” making a semantic contribution to identifying that person e.g. “They gave him the gift”, where “him” is indirect object of “gave”.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 14 at 9:00
  • @BillJ Thanks for explanation but hmm... "Note that “president” and “happy” are complements of the verb, not of the direct objects “him”/“them”." - I was thinking about the whole "object complement" thing, I always thought that in most cases the object complement is not tightly connected with the verb, and refers back to the object/direct object instead. After all, we can always say: "We made them", and "They elected him", I didn't know that object complement is more tightly connected to the verb rather than to the object/direct object. Commented Feb 14 at 9:53
  • @AmadeuszLis Object complements do, of course, relate to the direct object, but grammatically they are complements of the verb. In your last examples, "them" and "him" are complements of the verbs "made" and "elected". Note that both direct and indirect objects are subtypes of complement.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 14 at 15:45

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