copular verbs

• The word class of verbs has three main sub-classificiations: primary verbs, modal auxiliaries and full verbs. Full verbs can be classified as transitive, intransitive and copular.

• Copular verbs make up a small but important group. They appear — as the main verb of the verb element — only in two of the seven clause patterns: S V C and S V A. For example:

S V C:

Harry  is    a happy man.

Harry became   rich.

S V A:

Harry   is    upstairs.

Harry   got   home.

• notice that in of these examples the C-elements and the A-elements are obligatory. Notice also the copular relationship between subject and complement in the SVC sentences.

• Copular verbs are so-called because they express a “copular” relationship between the referent of the subject of a clause and the referent of its complement. Copular relationships are a relationships of identity — the subject and the complement refer to the same thing. They are explicitly indicated by copular verbs but can be implicitly indicated in other ways, for example by the structure of SVOC clauses which indicate identity between the referents of object and the complement.

• There are two main types of copular verb: “current” and “resulting.” The verb “be” is by far the most common current copular, and “become” is the most important resulting copular. Current copulas are stative in their normal use — i.e. they describe conditions or states that are regarded as permanent — or at least as extending over a unspecified period of time. Resulting copulas are dynamic (i.e. they are event verbs).

• Copular verbs can be followed (i.e. “complemented”) in three ways: by adjective phrases, by noun phrases, and by adjunct adverbials. Below are some examples of current and resulting copulas used with the three different types of complementation.

current copulas complemented by adjective phrases:

•Jill looked pretty.   •She seemed very happy.   •She felt sad about Jack.

resulting copulas complemented by adjective phrases:

•Jack got angry.    •He grew tired of fighting.   •He wound up drunk.

current copulas complemented by noun phrases:

•Dick  is Harry’s classmate.   •They  remain good friends.

resulting copulas complemented by noun phrases:

•Tom  became a highschool teacher.   •Sara ended up a billionaire..

current copulas complemented by adjuncts:

•Harry and Sara are in France.   •They will get home soon.