In the sentences below, the phrases in italic have the direct object "him" as a predicand, and would, I think, be analyzed as predicative (depictive?) adjunct, according to the terminology used in Huddleston&Pullum's Cambridge Grammar:

1a) She found him with his hands tied behind his back.

1b) She found him lying on the bed.

1c) She found him injured.

The use of the past-participle in the sentence below is clearly different, as it forms a syntactic constituent (noun phrase/object) with the preceding noun - "suspects involved in the robbery":

2a) She found the suspects involved in the robbery.

Although superficially similar to examples 1, this sentence obviously has a different syntactic structure.

Now, my problem is that in many cases this difference is not clear to me. For example, I'm not sure how to analyze the past-participial (passive?) phrase in italic in the following sentence:

2b) She found a note left on the table.

or in this one :

2c) The panel addressed numerous issues raised by the US steel exporters.

  • In the good olde days when I was in college, we used to call this type of constructions "the objective participial construction". I'll look it up in Quirk et al. and H&P's Cambridge Grammar for their terminology and then I'll post a reply here. However, I don't think that your example 2c is of the same type as examples 1a-c and 2a-b; there is no raised object there.
    – Alex B.
    Mar 16, 2012 at 17:55
  • I wasn't serious about it Alenanno :) The only problem I have is that even after reading the instructions on the site I still don't know how to add this shading to the text as you did with my example sentences :( Thank you Alex, I'm looking forward to reading your post :) Mar 16, 2012 at 18:05
  • @TotoKalvera: i.imgur.com/PZTHW.jpg Quotes are done by starting a paragraph with > .
    – Cerberus
    Mar 17, 2012 at 0:01
  • @TotoKalvera, ok, I'm ready to post a answer. Before I do it, I wanted to know whether you have a copy of Huddleston and Pullum 2002 at hand; in other words, can I make references to sections and pages in my answer?
    – Alex B.
    Mar 17, 2012 at 13:06
  • I have a copy of their Cambridge grammar Alex, go on :) Mar 17, 2012 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


According to traditional syntax, these are all participles modifying nouns/pronouns. The difference is that the examples 1a–c are clearly predicative, while 2a is purely attributive (modifying a noun), and 2b–c are somewhere in between.

Compare she came first, he arrived late: first belongs to she syntactically, but it also describes the action. Those are called predicative adjectives. Non-predicative adjectives and participles (which are in a way a kind of adjectives) modify only the noun, whereas predicative adjectives are said to modify both the verb and the noun the belong to. The distinction between predicative and non-predicative adjectives is necessarily a bit vague, as can be seen in 2b and 2c, but it can be useful.

Another thing is that attributive adjectives can be defining and non-defining, just like relative clauses (the table that I bought v. the table, which I bought). When a postpositional participle is non-defining, a comma is usually added. Example 2a is a good example of a defining adjective/participle.

  • Thank you Cerberus :) For some reason when I read sentence 2c now I find that removing "numerous" would favour the reading as in 2a, that is, I'd read "issues raised by the US steel exporters" as a noun phrase. Mar 16, 2012 at 18:16
  • @TotoKalvera: Right, that makes sense. If you have both numerous and raised by the US steel exporters, there are two adjectival phrases modifying the noun. The more there are, the less chance that each will be defining rather than non-defining. So removing numerous makes it more likely that it was meant to be defining.
    – Cerberus
    Mar 16, 2012 at 23:58

Sorry for the delayed response. Here's how you would analyze your examples, according to Huddleston and Pullum 2002 and 2005:

She found him lying on the bed.

‘Found him lying on the bed’ is a gerund-participial non-finite clause. It is also a plain-complex catenative construction. The verb ‘find’ here is a catenative verb and it belongs to class 3Cii (HP 2002). ‘Him’ is a direct object and ‘lying on the bed’ is a depictive object-oriented (objective) predicative complement.

She found him injured.

'Him' is a direct object, 'injured' is a depictive object-oriented (objective) predicative complement. 'Find' is a complex-transitive verb here. 'Injured' is an adjective here - it allows modification, e.g. badly/severely injured.

She found a note left on the table.

The past-participle non-finite clause ‘left on the table’ modifies the NP ‘note’ – so it is an adjunct of spatial location (HP 2002, Chapter 8, §4). It is essentially equivalent to a finite relative clause: 'which/that was left on the table'.

She found the suspects involved in the robbery.

‘The suspects’ is a direct object, ‘involved in the robbery’ is a depictive object-oriented (objective) predicative complement. 'Find' is a complex-transitive verb here. 'Involved' is an adjective here - it allows modification, e.g. deeply involved.

  • So there are two 'find' verbs here, one taking S, O and some kind of complement, and one that takes only S and O, correct? Also, it seems to me that the last example is ambiguous between the two kinds of verb: 1. 'She found the suspects[, who were] involved in the robbery' vs. 2. 'She found the suspects [to be] invoved in the robbery'? Apr 26, 2012 at 6:42
  • Yes, cf. 'I found him in the library' vs. 'I found him interesting.' You can omit "in the library" but not "interesting," without changing the meaning of the sentence. And those verbs have different meanings, find as to discover and find as have an opinion. There are other find's, too - e.g. I found the door locked.
    – Alex B.
    Apr 26, 2012 at 14:13
  • 1
    And yes, "she found the suspects involved in the robbery" could be ambiguous, unlike "she found them involved in the robbery."
    – Alex B.
    Apr 26, 2012 at 14:15

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