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(syncretic forms, syntactic homonyms, dubious cases of analysis)

Though each sentence can be divided into parts as described in the section “Parts of the sentence”, the attribution of some parts may present certain difficulties.


Here we may distinguish three cases.


1. The analysis of parts of the sentence which contain two meanings at one and the same time (the so-called syncretic forms).

2. The analysis of phrases built on one and the same pattern in different syntactical functions (the so-called syntactical homonyms).

3. The analysis of parts of the sentence whose attribution is dubious due to their nature.

Syncretic forms


Difficulties of this kind arise where a part of the sentence contains two meanings at once and it is not always clear which of them is the predominant. This is usually the case with various classes of adverbials, especially those expressed by an infinitive, a participle, or phrases and complexes with these verbals.

Here are some examples.


She looked under the cot and laughed to see the girl crouched there.

The work done, I felt as free as a bird.

It growing dark, she hurried the boys home.


In all these sentences the parts in italics express at the same time the idea ofthe cause of the action of the predicate verb andan indication of the time of these actions.

In the sentenceTo hear him talk, you’ll think he's at least ten years old the part in italics combines the ideaof time with thatof condition.

In the sentences She was clever enoughto keep silent; I’ve watched you work too longto underrate you the adverbials combine the ideaof resultwith the ideaof degree.

Sometimes an adverbial expressed by a noun with a preposition which name the place where the action of the predicate verb was performed actually denotes ratherthe time of the action than its place. This is usually the case where the adverbial is detached, as in: Athome, she took off her hat and cloak and hurried to the kitchen. Here Athome has rather the meaning ‘when she came home’.

Syntactical homonyms


Sometimes certain difficulties in analysis may arise from the fact that phrases, complexes or clauses of similar pattern can have different syntactical functions. They are calledsyntactical homonyms.

Here are a few simple examples:


I’ll do it with great pleasure (adverbial of manner).

She says she’s cut her finger with that table knife (object).

At last there appeared in the distance the house with the green roof (attribute).

He’s always with the losing party (predicative).

He looked as if he did not quite recognize the place (predicative clause).

He looked around as if he did not quite recognize the place (adverbial clause of manner).


The parts in italics have different syntactical functions due to the difference in lexical and grammatical semantics of the words they comprise, or the words they are connected with, or both.

Dubious cases


Difficulties of this kind usually arise because of the subtlety of the border-line between secondary parts of the sentence expressed by a noun with a preposition or by an infinitive, or sometimes even by a noun without a preposition, which makes it in some cases hardly possible to tell an object from an adverbial, or an attribute from an adverbial.


Object or Adverbial


We come across such difficulties in the sentences She was slowly moving towards Mrs. Carver; She made the policeman look for the catamong the boxes piled up by the wall and the like, in which the underlined parts allow of two alternative interpretations each - as an adverbial of place or as an indirect non-recipient object. The possible identifying questions are of no help here, for such parts may equally answer the where-question and a question with a preposition what/who:Where was she moving?Towardswhom was she moving?

In the same way some adverbials of manner may border on an indirect non-recipient object with an instrumental meaning. Compare: He opened the finwith a knife (object - what did he open the tin with?) and He was woundedwith a bullet, where the bold faced part may be analyzed in two ways, as an object or as an adverbial of manner (What was he wounded with? or How was he wounded?).

Sometimes there is no rigid border-line between a direct object and an adverbial of measure. This is the case where the formal position of the direct object is filled by a word denoting a unit of measure (money, weight, time, etc.). Thus in the sentence The job paid herthe minimum rate the boldfaced part may be analyzed in two ways, that is, either as a direct object (what?) or as an adverbial of measure (how much?).


Attribute or Adverbial


Sometimes it is impossible to tell an attribute from an adverbial of purpose. This often occurs where an infinitive or an infinitive phrase follows a noun which is a direct object to some verb. In this case it may not be clear whether the infinitive is grammatically connected with the noun or with the group “verb + noun”. Thus in the sentence She gave me a book to read on the train the syntactical function of the infinitive may be either that of an attribute (= which I might read...) or that of an adverbial of purpose (= in order that I might read it...). Compare this with the following sentences where relations are more definite.


She turned her headto see who it was (adverbial).

I have two kidsto look after (attribute).


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