“I was born a son of a bitch and I’m going to die a son of a bitch.”
(One Hundred Years of Solitude, tr. by Gregory Rabassa)

It seems like ‘was born’ and ‘am going to die’ are Catenative Verb; both the ‘a son of a bitch’ are predicative complement. Is this the right parsing?


You're right on the predicative complements.

Formally I suppose there's nothing wrong with calling the constructions be born and be going to die catenative. But I don't think you'll find many grammarians following that use. Be and be going to, like have and have to and be able to and the modals, are regarded as auxiliary verbs: what they contribute to a construction isn't lexical meaning but grammatical tense and aspect.

And there are restrictions on extracting an auxiliary from a chain. Consider, for instance, rewriting a catena as a pseudo-cleft. You can say:

He admitted stealing the picture → What he admitted was stealing the picture.

But you can't say

You've killed him! → What you have is killed him.
I'm going to die a son of a bitch → What I am is going to die a son of a bitch.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for?Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.