How to parse the grammar of a sentence that appears to have two tensed verbs

This question came from a student of mine – he wanted to know how to parse the grammar of this sentence, which appears to be simple but clearly is not: Peter seems to have found his glasses. Sentences of this form are very common in English but the syntax is puzzling. The main verb is … Read more

Using the Progressive Form of Be for a State of the Mind and Lately in Present Continuous

Firstly, is the following sentence correct? My brother is being unusually nervous lately. If correct, how is being nervous behavior? We usually use the progressive of be to describe a behavior or an action, not states of the mind. Secondly, I have read in both Longman and the Oxford dictionary that you use only present … Read more

Is “what has been discussed are…” a grammatically correct sentence?

When concluding an essay, I wrote “what has been discussed are three major advantages of xxx”. But I doubt if “what has been discussed is three major advantages of xxx” is more correct? Answer The following “Grammarphobia” blog post provides a summary of what some resources say about how to inflect verbs for grammatical number … Read more

Can a noun work as an adjective, and the adjective as a noun?

Hazel Eyes I found the following paragraph in the blog article “Hazel Eyes: Learn Why People with Greenish Eye Color are Rare!”, containing the two words “hazel eyes”: Hazel eyes are fascinating to gaze into. When you look at someone who has hazel eyes, you see colors that are completely different than other eye … Read more

“Babies grow very quickly.” In this sentence is “grow” a copula or a lexical verb?

“Grow” is classified as a change-of-state copula but by definition, copulas may be followed by adjective phrases, noun phrases, or adverbial prepositional phrases. “Very quickly” is an intensifier (degree adverb) with an adverb. Does “grow” still fall as a copula or is it a lexical verb? Answer In a comment, John Lawler wrote: The meaning … Read more

Can prepositional phrases modify copular verbs?

Cassandra was a natural fit for the role because of her well-refined combat skills. In the above quote (from a piece I wrote for my job), I have used the prepositional phrase ‘because of her well-refined combat skills’. Ordinarily, I would categorise this prepositional phrase as an adjunct, modifying the main verb of the clause … Read more

“What he is looking for are books” or “…is books”?

Which of the following is correct? What he is looking for are books written by Jane Austin. What he is looking for is books written by Jane Austin. Is it are to agree with the object books or is to agree with the subject he? Answer I believe either one is actually correct, since the … Read more

Alternative to “to be” in copulae that cannot be understood as defining

In particular in scientific writing, copulae using to be can not only be used to describe the properties of something but also to recapture a definition, to define something or to indicate complete identity. For example, the first of the following sentences gives the definition of a prime number, the second one just describes its … Read more