The Double Predicate in English and in Romance Languages

The syntactic category of the Double Predicate refers to a special type of predicate, which is, in fact, a combination of a Verbal and a Nominal Predicate. This Predicate is made up of two elements: the first element is a full lexical verb, denoting the action performed by the verb, while the second element is a nominal word (a Noun Phrase or an Adjectival Phrase qualifying the Subject- and not an Adverb-; that is a Complement of Subject,  functioning as a Predicative Adjunct). The verb of the Double Predicate undergoes a weakening of its lexical meaning and becomes a mere link verb. That happens when our attention is focused on the Predicative and we are no longer interested in the full meaning of the verb.

For instance, in sentence (a) we have, on the one hand, a Verbal Predicate expressed by the verb shines, a verb of  a full lexical meaning which denotes a certain process performed by the Subject; on the other hand, we have the Adjective clear which qualifies the Subject in the same way a Predicative qualifies the Subject in a Nominal Predicate, e.g.:

(a)` How clear she shines!` <  How clear she is and how she shines! [Cs (Adj) S Prd]

(the title of a poem by Emily Brontë available on:

(b) `Dr. William Wirt, Educator, Died Disappointed And Ridiculed Man.`< Dr. William Wirt, educator, died and Dr. William Wirt was a disappointed and ridiculed man. [S Prd Cs (NP)]

(a title from the newspaper „Tri City Herald”, July 14, 1949, p. 4, available on:

(Cs stands for Complement of Subject/Predicative Adjunct, S for the Subject and Prd for Predicate; Adj is Adjective and NP is Noun Phrase.)

Each example above represents the contraction of two sentences, both being easy to rebuild by syntactic reconstruction. So, this kind of Predicate has a derived nature, which means that it is definitely not a basic structure. That is why it is necessary to underline the fact that the Double Predicate is a category put forth by the transformational generative grammar, which operates with terms like: deep structure, surface structure, basic rules, transformational rules. The fact that the Double Predicate is the result of a derivational process and  that it is characterized by several distinct features certainly proves that we are dealing with an independent syntactic position, which deserves its attention in the syntactic research not only in English, but also in other languages like those of non-Germanic origin. Romance languages represent an example in this sense; Romanian, French and Spanish also have the concept of the double predication  in their syntax.

Gh. N. Dragomirescu (1966: 101) speaks about a later syntactic position, called `atribut predicativ` which could be considered one of the Romanian equivalents of the Complement of Subject/Predicative Adjunct. This phenomenon is definetely neither typical of our language nor a unique category of any other language, because it directs us to a Latin pair, completely identical to the Double Predicate, from the grammatical point of view: `rediit incolumis` (He returned back healthy.) (Cicero In Pisonem 16, available on:

The  accepted denomination in the Romanian grammar for the adverbial use of  a variable adjective is usually atribut predicativ because, having a double grammatical function, it represents a predicative word in the sentence and expresses, more than the grammatical predicate does, what is conveyed by the sentence. Therefore, this linguistic issue, which represents a characteristic of Romanian and of all Romance languages in general, originates in Latin. But, the use of the Adjective/Noun Phrase as an Adjective and as an  Adverb, at the same time, is also frequent in the old Slavic and in modern Slavic languages< it is ccalled the doplnok (Niță: 1958a: 63-69). Besides, the double predication was originally used not only in spoken Latin, but also in spoken Greek.

Although it is a recent topic, the predicativ suplimentar (abbreviated as PS) has caused an intense dispute among the Romanian grammarians for almost fifty years; this dispute resulted in an ample terminology for the Romanian double predication or, to be more exactly, for the syntactic double subordination in this language. Besides the established expression of element predicativ suplimentar, it was also called predicat circumstanțial (Niță: 1958b: 96). The latter is more suitable, as it denotes a second predication. The Adjective or the Noun functioning as a PS could also be a non-personal verbal construction; in any case, it determines both the subject and the verb of the sentence and it is a derived construction, like the English double predicate, e.g.: `Charlie Chaplin își învârtea fericit bastonul.` (Charlie Chaplin was spinning his walking stick happy.), which comes from the basic structure: Charlie Chaplin își învârtea bastonul și Charlie Chaplin era fericit. (Charlie Chaplin was spinning his walking stick and Charlie Chaplin was happy.)

An equivalent of the Double Predicate in French is l‘attribut „seconde degré” (attribut 2) (Florea: 2000: 61-62) or le prédicat indirect/ predication seconde (Sechehaye: 1950: 155), a syntactic category that is only briefly discussed in the French grammars. In contrast with  l‘attribut „premier degré” (the Predicative Adjunct of a Nominal Predicate in French), which belongs to a simple structure: [S + linking verb +  attribut (predicative adjunct)], l‘attribut „seconde degré” is part of a complex structure that combines a usual verbal construction with a construction containing a predicative with an unexpressed linking verb: [S + V + ętre/ avoir + attribut (predicative adjunct)], e.g.: Chat qui dort tranquille (Cat which is sleeping calm): [S] +  [Prd] + [attribut 2] < Chat qui dort et qui est tranquille.  (name of a wallpaper, available on:

Pisicuță care doarme liniștită
Chat qui dort tranquille


L‘ attribut  seconde degré , like l‘attribut „premier degré” denotes a characteristic , a „maniere d’ ętre” of the Subject. This attributive complex construction (called `complex predicate` in English), unites three constituents: a NP Subject, a Verb functioning as a Predicate and a characterising word (AdjP/NP). So, this syntactic position is a triple member construction in French as it is, also, in English. Its structural formulas are:

1. SN + V + Adj

2. SN + V + GN where: SN = Sujet Nominal (Nominal Subject);

V = Verbe;

GN = Groupe Nominal (Noun Phrase).

An essential opinion that many French and Romanian linguists expressed is that this syntactic category is a phenomenon of the double subordination. It relates to two terms at the same time: to the Subject and to the lexical verb of the sentence. This is a criteria to distinguish between a  double predication and a possible Adverbial of Manner (Complément Circonstanciel de Manière, complement de mod), because both of them could be easily mixed up. Yet, the French Adverbial of Manner is only subordinated to the predicate of the sentence. The semantic and syntactic parallelism that exists between the adjective and the adverb allows the replacement of l‘attribut „seconde degré” with an adverb; yet, as it was suggested by Lucien Tesnière (1959: 141), using the Predicative Adjunct of the Double Predicate, the sentence would be more expressive. We agree with that and we would say that the use of an Adjective that determines both the Subject and the Predicate, at the same time, instead of an Adverbial of Manner, could be more expressive not only in  French, but also in all the other languages in discussion: English, Romanian and Spanish. Moreover, the meaning of the sentence could strongly differ.  To illustrate that, compare and contrast the following examples:

(a) The rats gnaw noisy in your roof. (The rats gnaw in your roof and the rats are noisy.) -Double Predicate-

(b) The rats  gnaw noisily in your roof. (The rats gnaw in a noisy manner in your roof.) – Simple Verbal Predicate + Adverbial of Manner (reproduced and adapted from the article Rats in the Roof available on:   

The adverbial use of the Adjective can be often noticed in our daily speech as well as in literature, having a strong stylistic value/force in the literary works. Latin writers, following the Greek authors´ example, used this means. For instance, in Italian, it is used only in poetry, as a difference from the other languages, e.g.: La neve cade lenta, leggera. (The snow falls slow, light.) (fragment from E la neve cade…, an online poem available on:

In the Spanish syntax, although it does not differ very much from the other Romance languages, the concept of the double predication has not been studied so intensively. The Adjective/Noun Phrase in this syntactic position has been misinterpreted for many years as Adverbial of Manner (complemento circunstancial de modo), e.g.: Juan Pablo pensaba contento a Valentina. (Juan Pablo was thinking content of Valentina.) (a comment on an Internet forum on Venezuelan soap operas:

But, recent linguistic studies in Spanish language are developing more and more the idea of a Predicative Complement called complemento predicativo (Demonte: 1999: 2463), having the same characteristics of the English Double Predicate and of the other Romance double subordination, e.g.: `Las aguas bajan turbias.` (The waters fall down furious.)

In conclusion, analysing the facts from the Romance languages, it could easily come out that the Double Predicate has the same syntactic behaviour in these languages as in English. It is also certain that in all these languages this phenomenon is a derived structure from two basic sentences and resulting in a ternary construction, which is more economical in speech. Knowing the equivalents of this English complex predicate in other different languages could help to discover and clarify other features of this type of predication, which have not been already studied in the English grammar. This analysis represents only a simple attempt in this direction and sets the arguments for a possible future and more detailed comparative study.

The examples used to illustrate the theoretical explanations are quotations from diverse fields: literature, media, Internet or even personal examples so as to suggest that we can find various aspects of this type of predication in any domain, which contributes to the linguistic diversion of every language. Having a strong stylistic value and being so economical in the sentence, the use of the Double Predicate can be very useful not only in literature, but also in media or in advertising. Just look at the following advertisements:

Dormi liniștit când FNI lucrează pentru tine!

Let your skin breath happy!

Je le porte fière.



Dragomirescu, Gh. N. (1962). `Atributul predicativ în limba română` In: Limbă și literatură, no. 6, 1962 (p. 99-121). București: Societatea de Științe Filologice din România.

Demonte, V. (1999). Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española. Madrid: Real Academia Española.

Florea, L. (2000). `Au-delà de la phrase simple. L`attribut „second degré”` In: Studia Universitatis «Babeș-Bolyai», no. 45, 2000 (p. 61-80). Cluj-Napoca: Sfera.

Niță, S. (1958a). `Le „doplnok” et son correspondent en roumain` In: Romanoslavica, no. 1, 1958 (p. 63-69). București: Academia de Științe Filologice din Republica Socialistă România.

Niță, S. (1958b). `Predicatul circumstanțial` In: Limba română, no. 7, 1958 (p. 93-98). București: Societatea de Științe Filologice din România.

Sechehaye, Al. (1950). Essai sur la structure logique de la phrase. Paris: Champion.

Tesnière, L. (1959). Eléments de syntaxe structurale. Paris: Klincksieck.


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