flesl.net grammar glossary references::ditransitive prepositional verbs

references for Grammar Glossary entry: “ditransitive prepositional verbs”

• The following sections of A Comprehensive Grammar of The English Language (Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartik, Longman, London & New York, 1985) were consulted in preparing this entry:

Type II prepositional verbs

16.7-8 1155-56

• For general information on phrasal verbs see the entry: phrasal verbs.
• For general information on multi-word verbs (of which phrasal verbs are one type) see the entry: multi-word verbs.

1. Although Quirk, et.al., ibid., acknowledge the legitimacy of a SVO analysis of clauses containing phrasal verbs, they do not actually refer to the verbs as “transitive” or “intransitive,” preferring instead the labels, “Type I” and “Type II”. They explain that they do this (cf. 16.4) “to simplify comparison with prepositional verbs." They want, in other words, to be able to present Type II (transitive) phrasal verbs in which a direct object element can follow the verb word as comparable to Type II (ditransitive) prepositional verbs in which an object element occupies a similar position. (In the case of Types I and II phrasals they actually use the terms “transitive” and “intransitive,” parenthetically, in their section headings, although they do not similarly use “transitive” and “ditransitive,” with reference to Types I and II prepositional verbs.) Whatever the theoretical merits of this approach it seems unfortunate from the standpoint of ESL instruction where the consistent use of simple and familiar terminology has to be the paramount consideration. At any rate, in the conviction that that is so I have used the categories “intransitive,” “transitive,” and “ditransitive” in all the glossary entries on multi-word verbs.

2. The statement in the “ditransitive prepositional verb” entry to the effect that verbs such as protect from and suspect of are non-idiomatic is in accordance with the view of idiomaticity taken in all the Glossary entries on multi-word verbs: that idiomaticity is present when, and only when, new meaning comes into existence as the result of a fusing of two or more words into a single semantic unit. Although this view was arrived at, in large part, through a study of the Comprehensive Grammar, it becomes clear in 16.8 (p1157) that the Grammar’s view of idiomaticity is in fact more complex. The authors say there that, although in verbs such as protect from and suspect of, “the lexical verb and the particle are normally separated by the object, an idiomatic combination” is still present. This is so even though “the verbs are not idiomatic in the sense that applies to phrasal verbs like put N off, for the lexical verb is used in its primary literal meaning.” Such prepositional verbs, they go on to say, are nevertheless idiomatic because the verb “governs” the following preposition “in the sense that the preposition is selected by reason of the verb rather than by independent semantic choice.” This is an accurate and lucid description of the way the verb word and particle are related in such verbs but it seems that to label the relationship “idiomatic” is to introduce unnecessary complication and apparent contradiction. Certainly, from the standpoint of ESL instruction, it seems wise to stick to a single sense of the term “idiomatic.”