• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
Complementive constructions

In a complementive construction, the presence of the predicate is required by the larger structure in which it occurs. This larger structure generally involves a verb, which may be either intransitive (mostly – although not limited to – copula verbs), or transitive main verbs. An example each of these major classes follow below:

  • Intransitive copula:
    Jy is verkeerd.
    you be.PRS wrong
    You are wrong.
  • Intransitive main verb:
    Sy voel hartseer en alleen.
    she feels sad and alone.
  • Transitive main verb:
    Jy het die antwoord verkeerd.
    you have the answer wrong
    You've got the answer wrong.

[+]Intransitive predication

The following types of intransitive verbs may be involved in a predication relation between a predicate and an argument which functions as a subject in simple sentences:

  • Copulas, which include verbs such as wees be and bly remain
  • Modals as main verbs, including verbs such as moet must
  • Resultatives, mainly in idiomatic use, such as krom getrek became bent

Copula verbs

Verbs indicating a state or change of state (traditionally referred to as copulas), such as wees be, word become, raak become, bly remain, lyk seem and skyn appear, are able to provide the outer structure for an intransitive complementive predication. They can combine with all sorts of set-denoting adjectives, in addition to other parts of speech and syntactic constructions.

One example of the prototypical copula wees be is:

Hulle nekke is lank.
Their necks be·PRS long
Their necks are long.

Other copulas are exemplified below:

Die baba het nat geword.
the baby have.AUX wet become
The baby got wet.
Nou raak die debat interessant.
now becomes the debate interesting
Now the debate is getting interesting.
Haar oë het jonk gebly.
her eyes have.AUX young remained
Her eyes remained young.
Hy lyk ouer as wat hy is.
he looks older PTCL.SIMT that.REL he be.PRS
He looks older than he really is.

In addition to the last example, lyk look/seem, two copula verbs, namely blyk prove to be and skyn appear, could be compared, since they occur in different syntactic patterns.

Lyk seem can combine with a predicative AP, and often with a subordinate clause containing such an AP, by means of the conjunction of if or asof as if:

Hy lyk verskriklik.
He looks terrible.
Hulle lyk of hulle jammer is.
they seem if they sorry be.PRS
They seem to be sorry.
Dit lyk asof daar iets verkeerd is.
it seems as.if there something wrong be.PRS
It seems as if there is something wrong.

The verb skyn appear, sometimes used as a synonym of lyk seem in particular contexts, is formally marked, and is not used with a predicative adjective (possibly because a homonym of the verb skyn with the meaning shine). It mostly combines with a subordinate clause by means of of if, but occasionally also with the infinitive construction te wees to be in conjunction with an adjective:

Dit skyn of sy krag weg is.
it appears if his power be.PRS gone
It appears as if his power is gone.

As mentioned, it is not used with a predicative adjective:

*Sy krag skyn weg.
his power appears gone
His power appears (to be) gone.

An example of the construction with te wees to be:

Sy skyn tot oor haar ore verlief te wees.
she appears to over her ears in.love to be
She appears to be in love head over heels.

Modal verbs

Modal verbs are able to provide the outer structure for an intransitive complementive predication. (It should be noted that, although not uncommon, the frequency or their independent usage with adjectives is significantly lower as in Dutch. These verbs include moet must, mag may, kan can, wil want (to), hoef need (to), and are used in sentences such as these:

Die werk moet vandag nog klaar.
the work must.AUX.MOD today still finish
The work must be completed still today.
Dit moet eenvoudig beter.
it must.AUX.MOD simply better
It must simply be (done) better.

It should be noted that modal verbs like those illustrated above are mostly complemented by a main verb to form phrasal verbs, such as klaarkom get finished, as in example (15) below.)


In the case of intransitive resultatives, the action described by the verb is causally involved in establishing the relation between argument and adjectival predicate:

Sy vingers is kromgetrek.
his fingers be.PRS bent.pulled
His fingers are bent.

The predicative form of the adjectives as used above (which can also operate as past participles in passive constructions) are derived from the relevant resultative verbs.

[+]Transitive predication

Certain types of transitive verbs may be involved in a predication relation between a predicate and an argument which functions as a direct object. Four types are identified here:

  • Transitive stative verbs
  • Transitive resultative verbs
  • Transitive evaluative verbs
  • Pseudo-transitive verbs

Transitive stative verbs

These include verbs like have, verkies prefer and hou van like, as illustrated below:

Ek het dit verkeerd.
I have it wrong
I am wrong on this.
Carien verkies haar koffie swart.
Carien prefers her coffee black.
Hy hou van sy whisky oud en sy vroue jonk.
he holds of his whisky old and his women young
He likes his whisky old and his women young.

Just as in the intransitive one, the relation between argument and adjective may be modulated by choosing a different verb. In the first example below, the brush becomes clean, and in the second the brush stays clean:

Hy kry die kwas skoon.
he get the brush clean
He gets the brush clean.
Hy hou die kwas skoon.
he keep the brush clean
He keeps the brush clean.

These complementive verbs may also occur with non-referential (or expletory) dit it:

Hy kry dit hotagter.
he get it left.hind
He has a difficult time.
Ek kry dit nie uitgepluis nie.
I get it not out.teased PTCL.NEG
I cannot get it figured out.

Afrikaans has a strong tendency, with some adjectives, to use wees be rather than het het, in other words, to use an intransitive verb of predication instead of a transitive verb (as in Dutch), possibly following the English pattern, as can be seen in the examples below:

Ek is honger.
I be.PRS hungry.
Ik heb honger.
Jy is verkeerd.
You be.PRS wrong.
Jij hebt ongelijk.

Transitive resultative verbs

Resultative verbs provide the outer structure for a transitive complementive predication, and include verbs where the predication denotes the result of the action described by the mediating verb, as illustrated below:

Hy praat my koponderstebo.
he talk me head.upside.down
He talks me out of my mind.
[Cape Afrikaans expression]
Sy verf die deur groen.
she paint the door green
She paints the door green.

Transitive evaluative verbs

In evaluatives, the predication involves a subjective evaluation or assignment of properties to an argument. Evaluative verbs combine with evaluative adjectives, and provide the outer structure for a transitive complementive predication as illustrated in these examples:

Hy beskou homself as verhewe bo kritiek.
he regard himself as superior to criticism
He regards himself as superior to criticism.
Hulle vind dit moeilik om hom te glo.
they find it difficult for.COMP him PTCL.INF believe.INF
They find it difficult to believe him.

Transitive pseudo-transitive verbs

Pseudo-transitives involve examples in which the object must be an anaphoric pronoun referring back to the subject. The predication seems resultative, but its literal meaning is lost. Instead, the predication receives a high degree reading, although the high degree may be viewed as the result of the action denoted by the verb.

Ons lag ons besimpeld.
we laugh us silly
We are laughing ourselves silly.
Sy het haarself doodgewerk.
she have.AUX herself dead.worked
She worked herself to a standstill.
    printreport errorcite