“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?

1 Answer 1


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.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .