• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
2.5.1.Absolute met-construction
quickinfo

This section is concerned with the absolute met-construction, subsection I starts by showing that the construction constitutes a phrase, subsections II to IV continue by discussing, respectively, the properties of the predicative part of the construction, the syntactic uses of the construction, and the properties of the noun phrase of which the predicative part of the construction is predicated, subsection V concludes by discussing some syntactic properties of the construction as a whole.

readmore
[+]  I.  Constituency

That the phrase met Jan in het doel in (69a) forms a constituent is clear from the fact illustrated in (69b&c) that it can be placed in clause-initial or extraposed position; cf. the constituency test. Furthermore, the primed examples show that the construction cannot be split; this is illustrated in the (b)-examples for topicalization and in the (c)-examples for PP-over-V.

69
a. We kunnen [met Jan in het doel] niet verliezen.
  we  can   with Jan in the goal  not  lose
  'We cannot lose with Jan in the goal.'
b. [Met Jan in het doel] kunnen we niet verliezen.
b'. * Met Jan kunnen we in het doel niet verliezen.
b''. * In het doel kunnen we met Jan niet verliezen.
c. We kunnen niet verliezen [met Jan in het doel].
c'. * We kunnen met Jan niet verliezen in het doel.
c''. * We kunnen in het doel niet verliezen met Jan.
[+]  II.  The predicative part

The following subsections show that the predicative part of the absolute met-construction can be of several categories.

[+]  A.  Adpositional predicates

Adpositional predicates are probably the most common in the absolute met-construction. If the adposition is prepositional, as in (70), the PP may express either a location or a direction.

70
a. [Met Jan in het doel] kunnen we niet verliezen.
  with  Jan  in the goal  can  we  not  lose
  'With Jan in the goal we cannot lose.'
b. [Met de baby naar de crèche] kan Jan weer gaan werken.
  with  the baby  to the crèche  can Jan again  go  work
  'With the baby to the crèche Jan can work again.'

Given that the directional reading is possible, it will not come as a surprise that postpositional and circumpositional phrases are also possible; cf. (71).

71
a. [Met Marie het huis uit] kan Jan een eigen kamer krijgen.
  with  Marie  the house  out  can  Jan an own room  get
  'With Marie out of the house Jan can get a room of his own.'
b. [Met de draad door de naald heen] kan ik eindelijk mijn broek repareren.
  with  the thread  through the needle  heen  can  finally my trousers  repair
  'With the thread through the needle I can finally repair my trousers.'

Example (72a) shows that intransitive prepositions can also be used. Verbal particles like op in (72b) are marginally possible if they occur with the main verb hebben'to have' (like Hij heeft zijn borrel op'He has finished his drink') or if they can be used in a copular construction (cf. De drank is op'The booze is finished'), and are excluded in all other cases.

72
a. [Met een nette das om] ging hij de club binnen.
  with  a neat tie  around  went  he  the club  inside
  'He went inside the club with a neat tie around (his neck).'
b. ? [Met de drank op] vertrok iedereen snel.
  with  the booze  op  left  everyone  quickly
  'With the booze finished everyone left quickly.'
[+]  B.  Adjectival predicates

The examples in (73) show that the predicative part of an absolute met-construction may also be an adjectival phrase. In order to be able to occur in this construction, the adjective must denote a transitory property: typical stage-level adjectives like ziek'ill' and dronken'drunk' generally give rise to a felicitous result, whereas typical individual-level predicates like intelligent'intelligent' or klein van stuk'small of posture' are excluded in this construction.

73
Stage-level adjectives
a. [Met Jan ziek] kan de vergadering niet doorgaan.
  with  Jan ill  can  the meeting  not  take.place
  'With Jan ill the meeting cannot take place.'
b. [Met de helft van de ploeg dronken] verliezen we zeker.
  with  the half of the team  drunk  lose  we certainly
  'With half of the team drunk, we will certainly lose.'
74
Individual-level adjectives
a. * [Met Jan intelligent] lossen we alles op.
  with  Jan intelligent  solve  we  everything  prt.
b. * [Met Peter en Jan klein van stuk] kunnen ze gemakkelijk in één bed slapen.
  with  Peter and Jan  small of posture  can  they  easily  in one bed  sleep
[+]  C.  Nominal predicates

Nominal predicates cannot readily be used in the absolute met-construction. Instead, the nominal predicate appears preceded by the element als'as', which also appears in the supplementive and complementive constructions in (76).

75
a. ?? [Met Jan voorzitter] zal de vergaderen snel verlopen.
  with  Jan  chairman  will  the meeting  quickly  proceed
b. [Met Jan als voorzitter] zal de vergaderen snel verlopen.
  with  Jan  as chairman  will  the meeting  quickly  proceed
  'With Jan as chairman, the meeting will proceed quickly.'
76
a. Als voorzitter is Jan verantwoordelijk voor de procedure.
  as chairman  is Jan responsible  for the procedure
  'As chairman, Jan is responsible for the procedure.'
b. Ik beschouw Jan als onze voorzitter.
  consider  Jan  as our chairman
[+]  D.  Past/Present participles and modal infinitives

It seems that participles and infinitives can at best marginally act as predicates in absolute met-constructions. Example (77a) is a potentially acceptable example that involves a passive participle. The judgments on this example seem to vary from “perfect” to “marginal”; that we are dealing here with a (verbal) passive participle is supported by the fact that a passive door-phrase is present. However, including the perfect participle gedronken'drunk' in example (77b) leads to an ungrammatical result; the particle op must stand alone. In order to be able to fully appreciate the importance of (77b), it should be noted that many apparent cases of past/passive participles may actually involve deverbal adjectives. Example (77c) illustrates this; that we are dealing with an adjective in this example is clear from the fact that gesloten'closed' expresses a stative property.

77
a. % [Met Jan achtervolgd door de politie] moeten we nu voorzichtig zijn.
  with  Jan chased by the police  must  we now  careful  be
  'With Jan chased by the police, we have to be careful.'
b. [Met een borrel op (*gedronken)] mag je geen auto besturen.
  with  a drink  up     drank  may you  no car  steer
  'One isnʼt allowed to drive a car after drinking.'
c. [Met het museum gesloten] is hier niets te doen.
  with  the museum  closed  is here  nothing  to do
  'With the museum closed, there is nothing to do here.'

      The use of present participles, as in (78a), is generally judged as marginal. However, if the present participle is suffixed with an -e ending, as in (78b), the result is well-formed, which is of course related to the fact that such forms can also be used in copular constructions such as (78b'); cf. Section A9.3.1, sub II.

78
a. [Met Jan naast mij (??lopend)] voel ik me niet op mijn gemak.
  with  Jan  next.to me     walking  feel  refl  not  at my ease
  'With John (walking) beside me, I donʼt feel at my ease.'
b. [Met Jan stervende/??stervend] kunnen we niet op vakantie gaan.
  with  Jan dying  can  we  not  on holiday  go
  'With Jan dying we cannot go on holiday.'
b'. Jan bleek stervende/*stervend.
  Jan turned.out  dying

      Modal infinitives can also be used in this construction, which is not surprising since they can also appear as predicates of copular constructions. The fact that the te + infinitive sequences precede the finite verbs in the primed examples shows that they are not dependent clauses, since clausal te-infinitives never precede the finite verb in clause-final position; cf. Section V7.

79
a. [Met nog drie wedstrijden te spelen] ...
  with  yet  three games  to play
a'. dat er nog drie wedstrijden te spelen zijn.
  that  there  yet  three games  to play  are
  'that there are still three games to play.'
b. [Met nog drie kilometer te gaan] ...
  with yet three kilometer to go
b'. dat er nog drie kilometer te gaan is.
  that  there  yet  three kilometer  to go  is
  'that there are still three kilometers to go.'

Example (80a) shows that the use of regular, non-modal (te-)infinitives is excluded in Standard Dutch. It can be noted, however, that this use does occur in certain dialects spoken in Flanders and Brabant. The grammatical example in (80b) is from the Flemish dialect spoken in Wambeek, the properties of this construction are discussed in Haslinger (2007: Chapter 3).

80
a. * [Met Marie (te) werken] moet hij de hele dag thuis blijven.
  with  Marie to work must  he  the whole day  home  stay
b. [Mè zaai te werken] moest-n-ai de gieln dag toisj blaaiven
  with  she  to work  must-he  the whole day  home  stay
  'With her working, he had to stay home all day.'
[+]  III.  Syntactic uses

The absolute met-construction can perform various syntactic functions, which are discussed in this subsection. We will also compare the absolute constructions with constructions involving the main verb hebben'to have' and the copular verb zijn'to be', since this comparison has played an important role in the discussion about the internal structure of the absolute met-construction; see Subsection D for a brief summary of this discussion.

[+]  A.  Attributive use

In (81a&b), the absolute met-construction is used attributively, as is clear from the fact that the sequence consisting of the noun phrase and the absolute construction is placed in clause-initial position. If the absolute construction is used attributively, there are several additional restrictions on the predicative part of the absolute construction, as is clear from the unacceptability of the examples in (81c&d).

81
a. [NP Die man [PP met een revolver in zijn hand]] is gevaarlijk.
  that man  with  a revolver  in his hand  is dangerous
b. [NP Die vrouw [PP met dat boek voor zich]] is de nieuwe hoogleraar.
  that woman  with  that book  in.front.of refl  is the new professor
  'That woman with that book in front of her is the new professor.'
c. * [NP Die man [PP met zijn vrouw ziek]] is ongelukkig.
  that man  with  his wife  ill  is unhappy
d. * [NP Die vrouw [PP met haar benen verlamd]] is de nieuw hoogleraar.
  that woman  with  her legs paralyzed  is the new professor

The data in (81) suggest that adjectives are not possible in attributively used absolute met-constructions. It has been argued, however, that the difference between the two cases is related to the fact that the constructions in (81a&b) can be paraphrased by means of a relative clause containing the verb hebben, whereas the examples in (81c&d) cannot.

82
a. Die man die een revolver in zijn hand heeft ...
  that man  who  a revolver  in his hand  has
b. Die vrouw die een boek voor zich heeft ...
  that woman  who  a book  in.front.of refl  has
c. *? Die man die zijn vrouw ziek heeft ...
  that man  who  his wife  ill  has
d. *? Die vrouw die haar benen verlamd heeft ...
  that woman  who her legs  paralyzed  has

It should be noted, however, that the correspondence between the absolute met-construction and the relative construction with hebben does not work in reverse: whereas the construction with a relative clause in (83b) is fully acceptable, the absolute construction in (83a) is ungrammatical.

83
a. * [De man [met zijn schoenen nu eindelijk schoon]] is mijn broer.
  the man  with  his shoes  now  finally  clean  is my brother
b. [De man [die zijn schoenen nu eindelijk schoon heeft]] is mijn broer.
  the man  who  his shoes  now  finally  clean  has  is my brother
  'The man who has his shoes finally clean is my brother.'
[+]  B.  Adverbial use

Adverbially used absolute met-constructions express an accessory circumstance with respect to the event expressed by the clause: they may express a cause, as in (84a), specify a condition under which the event in the main clause takes place, as in (84b), describe a state or an event that simultaneously takes place, as in (84c), etc.

84
a. We schaatsen altijd [met zoveel sneeuw op straat].
  we  skate  always  with  so.much snow  in the.street
  'With so much snow in the streets, weʼre always skating.'
b. Jan spijbelt altijd [met zoʼn voetbalwedstrijd op TV].
  Jan plays.truant  always  with  such.a soccer.game  on TV
  'Jan always plays truant with such a soccer game on TV.'
c. Jan slaapt altijd [met het raam open].
  Jan sleeps  always  with  the window  open
  'Jan always sleeps with his window open.'

In this respect the absolute met-constructions in (84) do not differ from the PPs in (85), the complements of which do not involve predication.

85
a. We schaatsen altijd met zulk mooi weer.
  we  skate  always  with such beautiful weather
  'With such beautiful weather weʼre always skating.'
b. Jan spijbelt altijd met zoʼn voetbalwedstrijd.
  Jan plays.truant  always  with  such.a soccer.game
  'Jan always plays truant with such a soccer game.'
c. Jan slaapt altijd met een open raam.
  Jan sleeps  always  with an open window
  'Jan always sleeps with an open window.'

The examples in (86) and (87) show that the constructions in (84) and (85) are not only semantically, but also syntactically similar: they do not allow R-extraction, in contrast to what is normally the case with other types of met-PPs; cf. the discussion of example (390) in Section 1.3.3, sub II {{0}}.

86
a. * De sneeuw waar we [mee op straat] schaatsen.
  the snow  that  we  with  in the.street  skate
b. * De voetbalwedstrijd waar Jan altijd [mee op TV] spijbelt.
  the soccer.game  that  Jan always  with  on TV  plays.truant
c. * Het raam waar Jan altijd [mee open] slaapt.
  the window  that  Jan always  with  open  sleeps
87
a. * Het mooie weer waar we altijd mee schaatsen.
  the beautiful weather  that  we always  with  skate
b. * De voetbalwedstrijd waar Jan altijd mee spijbelt.
  the soccer.game  that  Jan always  with  plays.truant
c. * Het open raam waar Jan altijd mee slaapt.
  the open window  that  Jan always  with  sleeps

      This similarity in meaning and syntactic behavior seems to justify the assumption that the two constructions are essentially the same, the only difference being that in (84) the preposition met takes a complex phrase expressing a predicative relation as its complement, whereas in (85) the preposition simply takes a nominal complement. We refer the reader to Beukema & Hoekstra (1984) for an alternative account for the ungrammaticality of the examples in (86) and to Subsection VC, for some apparent counterexamples to the claim that R-extraction from absolute met-constructions is excluded.
      For completeness' sake, we want to note that the absolute constructions in the examples in (84) can be paraphrased by means of copular constructions.

88
a. We schaatsen altijd als er zoveel sneeuw op straat is.
  we  skate  always  when  there  so.much snow  in the.street  is
  'When there is so much snow in the street, weʼre always skating.'
b. Jan spijbelt altijd als er zoʼn voetbalwedstrijd op TV is.
  Jan plays.truant  always  when  there  such.a soccer.game  on TV  is
  'Jan always plays truant when there is such a soccer game on TV.'
c. Jan slaapt altijd terwijl het raam open is.
  Jan sleeps  always  while  the window  open is
  'Jan always sleeps while the window is open.'
[+]  C.  Supplementive use

The examples in the previous subsection involve cases in which the absolute PP is used adverbially and refers to some accessory circumstance under which the event denoted by the verb takes place. The absolute PP can, however, also be used as a supplementive and thus convey additional information about one of the arguments of the verb. This is illustrated in (89).

89
a. Marie zag de rover [met een revolver in zijn hand] wegrennen.
  Marie saw  the robber  with a revolver in his hand  away ran
  'Marie saw the robber run away with a revolver in his hand.'
b. Marie liep [met een revolver in haar hand] naar de rover toe
  Marie walked  with a revolver in her hand  to the robber  toe
  'Marie walked to the robber with a revolver in her hand.'
c. * De auto reed [met een revolver in haar/de hand] weg.
  the car  drove  with a revolver in her/the hand  away

In (89a) the absolute PP modifies the direct object of the clause: it expresses that the robber, who is running away, has a revolver in his hand, which is clear from the fact (indicated by italics) that the possessive pronoun zijn'his' must be construed as coreferential with the noun phrase de rover'the robber'. Like supplementive APs, supplementive absolute PPs can also modify the subject of the clause; in (89b), the absolute PP expresses that Marie, who is approaching the robber, has a revolver in her hand, which is clear from the fact that the possessive pronoun haar'her' must be construed as coreferential with the noun phrase Marie. Supplementive absolute PPs must modify some argument of the verb: in (89c) no suitable antecedent is available and the sentence is ungrammatical.
      Like attributively used absolute PPs, the supplementive absolute PPs in (89) can be paraphrased by means of a construction involving hebben; cf. (90).

90
a. Marie zag de rover wegrennen terwijl hij een revolver in zijn hand had.
  Marie saw  the robber  away.run  while  he  a revolver  in his hand  had
b. Marie liep naar de rover toe terwijl zij een revolver in haar hand had.
  Marie  went  to the robber prt.  while  she  a revolver  in her hand  had

The examples in (91) show that if the hebben-construction is excluded, the supplementive use of the absolute met-PP is not possible either.

91
a. * Jan vertrok [met zijn vrouw ziek].
  Jan left  with his wife  ill
b. * Jan vertrok terwijl hij zijn vrouw ziek had.
  Jan left  while  he his wife  ill  had
[+]  D.  Concluding remarks

The preceding subsections have shown that, in terms of paraphrases, there is a difference between the adverbial use of the absolute construction, on the one hand, and its attributive and supplementive use, on the other. The fact that the latter must allow a paraphrase with hebben'to have' has led to the hypothesis in (92a), according to which the complement of met has a clause-like structure with an empty abstract verb [Ve] meaning “to have” and a PRO-subject that corresponds to the subject of the paraphrase with hebben; cf. Klein (1983). This hypothesis has been refuted by pointing to adverbially used absolute constructions, which certainly do not involve the postulated empty verb or a PRO-subject, in favor of the “Small Clause” structure in (92b); cf. Beukema & Hoekstra (1983), and also Van Riemsdijk (1978) for additional arguments against structures like (92a). However, a problem with the proposal in (92b), which was also defended within a non-generative framework by Duinhoven (1985), is that it does not account for the clause-like properties of the complement of met: Subsection V will show that the complement of met may contain all kinds of phrases that we would expect within a clause rather than within a Small Clause; these include adverbial phrases, supplementives, (moved) R-words, etc. An attempt to reconcile the two approaches can be found in Smits & Vat (1985), who assume that the complement of met is a verbal projection which is smaller than a full clause and therefore does not contain a PRO-subject, as in (92c). To our knowledge, the discussion on the internal structure of the absolute met-construction has not been continued since.

92
a. [PP met/zonder [S PRO ... NP PRED [V e]]]
b. [PP met/zonder [SC NP PRED]]
c. [PP met/zonder [VP ... NP PRED ..[Ve]]]
[+]  IV.  The noun phrase part

The examples in (84) and (85) in Subsection III have shown that the predicative part of the absolute met-construction is (in a sense) optional. This does not hold for the noun phrase that the predicative part of the construction is predicated of. Dropping it results in ungrammaticality, as is illustrated in (93) on the basis of the examples in (84).

93
a. We schaatsen altijd met *(zoveel sneeuw) op straat.
  we  skate  always  with    so much snow  in the.street
b. Jan spijbelt altijd met *(zoʼn voetbalwedstrijd) op TV.
  Jan  plays.truant  always