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In this sentence:

The dogs who run in the street are especially irritable in the late afternoon.

is the verb are transitive? The dogs is a noun phrase, the subject, argument of are; who run in the street is a relative clause. Can you analyse the function of especially irritable in the late afternoon? Are all these words a predicate? Can you call it a phrase (and what type of phase is it)? Or mostly a predicate that may predicate on are, so all those words may be called an object?

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Are is a copular verb, which means that especially irritable is a complement to the subject. The phrase in the late afternoon is an adverbial complement.

Copular verbs don't take objects. They take a complement to the subject that tells us more about the subject, it qualifies the subject. Especially irritable is not a new person or object in the sentence, it elaborates on our existing subject.

Some other examples:

I am a doctor.

The word a doctor here is the same person as the subject I. It is not an object. Notice the difference:

I saw a doctor.

Here a doctor is not the same person as the subject. There is no copular verb here. Saw is a transitive verb and a doctor is a direct object.

  • +1 I'd say that especially irritable is a complement to the verb and is predicated of the subject; syntactically it is the verb which evokes both arguments. But terminology around these things varies widely. – StoneyB Jun 7 '15 at 11:15
  • So are gets called a copular verb and requests no object. And especially irritable in the late afternoon. may get discerned in two bits, especially irritable a complement (any phrase[?]) and in the late afternoon an adverbial compliment. May you call these one predicate? And I guess I thought complements mostly go to verbs. It seems here a complement goes to a subject? May there seem a difference from complement to predicate maybe in like grammatical signification? – saySay Jun 7 '15 at 15:33
  • May you utilize those phrases like this? Especially irritable, the dogs ran. and maybe In the late afternoon, the dogs ran.? – saySay Jun 7 '15 at 15:35
  • No, the complements are not part of your predicate. The predicate corresponds to the verb and auxiliaries in your sentence. For example: 'He used to be a doctor.' Used to be is your predicate. The complements are not a part of your predicate. Complements to the subject (or simply subject complements) are used with copular verbs to modify your subject. Object complements modify your object (for example 'I find your dog funny' where funny is an object complement. Adverbial complements modify your verb. Finally, you have prepositional complements. These complements begin with a preposition. – Sander Jun 8 '15 at 6:08

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