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Kurt Tippett kicked two goals last night. (Aussie ABC News)

It seems that this sentence is ‘one-complement pattern with monotransitive verb (Angela Downing’s term). Can we call ‘two goals’ the resultative complement?

  • Can you explain exactly how knowing whether constructions like he kicked two goals, he ran a fine race, he played a good game are "resultative complements" could help you to learn English? As a native speaker I can just about figure out what that term probably means, but it has no currency in English because it virtually never affects either morphology or syntax (I only say "virtually" in case someone can find an example). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 24 '15 at 22:33
  • @FumbleFingers Probably not. I don't think she's coming back to ELL any time soon. – snailcar Nov 24 '15 at 22:46
  • @snailboat: Ah well. Win some lose some. Personally I think the example to kick a goal is a rather strange usage (checking Google Books shows a massive preponderance of Australian sources), but be that as it may. I genuinely don't understand how it can be helpful to the average learner of English to classify usages as one-complement pattern with monotransitive verb, or resultative complement. This sort of terminology might be useful to linguists, but who else? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 24 '15 at 23:03
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Based on an hour or so of reading, everything I've seen about resultative complement has to do with Chinese. The resultative complements are words that are attached to activity verbs to indicate completion or both completion and comprehension.

The first point is that resultative complements are tacked onto "activity" verbs (run, swim, read, write, etc.) all of which can be intransitive. Kick is generally transitive and implies an event rather than an activity: one kicks something such as goals.

The second point is that resultative complements appear to solve the problem of showing whether an activity is complete or not. In Chinese, "I read a book" (past tense of read) does not mean that I finished reading as it does in English. To do that, I have to attach the resultative complement "kan": "I read-kan a book", if I may. That would mean I read and finished a book. (Similarly, attaching "dong" instead of "kan" would mean that I read, finished and understood a book.)

Given this information, I find a distinction between a direct object and a resultative complement in grammar, whether the direct object is a "one-complement of a monotransitive verb" or not.

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    I don't have Downing, but OP's earlier inquiries make clear that she's a Functionalist; so I suspect the distinction you draw is exactly the point of her terminology: kick may take only one nominal complement, but it may be either a Direct Object (He kicked the ball) or a 'resultative complement' (He kicked a goal). With a DO it may also take an additional non-nominal complement (He kicked the ball across the field, He kicked the ball into goal). – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 29 '13 at 16:04
  • That may be; I have no expertise on the subject. I can only say that the only place that I found the term "resultative complement" is as it relates to Chinese grammar. The Chinese sense, my understanding of which I have summarized, is different from the one you describe as her terminology. I found no example of her terminology, but it is an entirely reasonable application of the term and makes an interesting usage distinction as well. – BobRodes Jun 29 '13 at 16:21
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Resultative phrases look like this:

He was knocked unconscious. (resultative complement)
I kicked the door open. (resultative adjunct)

In each example, the phrase in bold shows the result of the action expressed by the predicate:

  • In the first example, unconscious predicates on the subject he, showing the state he was in as a result of the action expressed by knocked. Because it predicates on the subject, it's called a subject-oriented resultative.
  • In the second example, open predicates on the object the door, showing the state the door was in as a result of being kicked. Because it predicates on the object, it's called an object-oriented resultative.

These are both types of secondary predicates. They're called "secondary" because the clause already has a primary predicate, headed by knocked in the first example and kicked in the second.


We can tell unconscious is a resultative complement because it can't be omitted:

He was knocked unconscious.
*He was knocked.

That is, it's a complement because it's needed to complete the construction.

And in the second example, open is a resultative adjunct, something optional we can add to the clause to show the result of the action. We can remove it without a problem:

I kicked the door open.
I kicked the door.

So hopefully by now you know what a resultative complement is. It's a type of secondary predicate, a phrase that appears after the main predicate and predicates on either the subject or object, showing the resulting state that subject or object is in.


Your example doesn't have any of this stuff. It just has a direct object:

Kurt Tippett kicked two goals last night.

Two goals is the thing that was kicked. It doesn't express any kind of resulting state, and it doesn't predicate on the subject Kurt Tippett. When you kick a door open, the door is open. But when Kirt Tippett kicks two goals, he isn't two goals; it's just what he kicked. It's true that a direct object is a kind of complement, but it's not a resultative complement.

(I've simplified the complement–adjunct distinction here a little. See the discussion in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language p.219 for some discussion of how you might distinguish the two.)

  • Tippett kicked the ball (at least twice). Each of these two kicks resulted in his team scoring a goal. Each goal changed the state of the game, where "state of the game" means the values of such variables as each team's score, which team has possession of the ball, how much time is left in the game, et cetera. – Jasper Nov 24 '15 at 22:28
  • But two goals doesn't predicate on Kurt Tippett. When you kick a door open, the door is open. Open predicates. When you kick two goals, you aren't two goals. Two goals doesn't predicate, it's just what you kicked. None of what you describe in your comment is related to the grammatical concept of a resultative phrase. – snailcar Nov 24 '15 at 22:36

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