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  1. He declares the meeting open.
  2. He declares the meeting to be open.

I think the right form of the first sentence is, "He declares the meeting is open", though it seems to me that the first sentence is correct. If the first sentence is correct, please tell me why the auxiliary verb 'is' is not used. And why, in the second sentence, has 'to be' been used?

  • Becuase of "verb + object + adjective (complement)" structure ! – Cardinal Dec 27 '15 at 15:33
  • open works as an adjective in both. The choice for choosing to be is just how stylish you want your sentence look. – Alejandro Dec 27 '15 at 15:49
  • @Subjunctive I think the sentence without the "to be" is more formal, I've read it some time ago. – Cardinal Dec 27 '15 at 16:18
  • @Cardinal It is. I'd go for that option anyway. – Alejandro Dec 27 '15 at 16:18
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To start with, you need to understand about performative utterances — sentences which don't just describe something, but actually do something. For example, if I say "I apologize", then I am not merely saying that I apologize, but rather, I am apologizing simply by saying that I'm doing so.

Declare can be used for ordinary statements ("He declared that the meeting was a waste of time"), but it can also be used for performative utterances. "He declares the meeting open" is technically ambiguous, but it almost certainly denotes a performative utterance; it means roughly, "He opens the meeting [by announcing that it is now open]."

OK, with that background, we can start looking at the grammar . . .


He declares the meeting open.

In this version, declare is taking two separate complements: a direct object ("the meeting") and an adjective ("open") whose subject is that direct object. If it helps, here are some more sentences where the verb has a direct object plus a predicative complement:

I found {his claims} {unlikely}.
They elected {her} {president}.
They called {each other} {stupid}.
He made {me} {so angry}!
She considered {it} {a waste of time}.

(Note that these predicative can be either adjective phrases or noun phrases.)

As I mentioned above, this version is ambiguous between a performative reading ("He opens the meeting") and an ordinary statement ("He states that the meeting is open"), but it most likely means the former.


He declares the meeting to be open.

This version is pretty similar to the first. As before, declare is taking two complements — a direct object ("the meeting") and, this time, an infinitival clause ("to be open"). If it helps, here are some more sentences with this sort of structure:

He convinced {me} {to go along with his plan}.
She found {the frog population} {to be decreasing}.
They asked {him} {to leave}.

Grammar-wise, I think that this version sounds much more like it's talking about an ordinary statement than about a performative utterance; but the concept of opening a meeting via performative utterance makes so much more sense than the other, that I can't really decide how it should be interpreted.

(I'd welcome other people's thoughts on this one.)


He declares [that] the meeting is open.

In this version, declare is taking a single complement: a declarative content clause ("[that] the meeting is open"), indicating what "he" is declaring. You don't seem to be asking about this one, so as far as the grammar is concerned, I'll leave it at that.

As far as the meaning is concerned, however, I think that this sentence really only works if we're talking about an ordinary statement, as opposed to a performative utterance. For that reason, I don't think it's at all synonymous with "He declares the meeting open."

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