In Dependency and/or Constituency Grammar, I think you get the same tree diagram for Sentence 1 comprising Subject - Verb - Object (I hit him.) and Sentence 2 comprising Subject - Verb - Predicative Complement (I am angry.).

Am I right?

If so, how come you end up with the same diagram for two different structures?

For examples of tree diagrams in Dependency Grammar and Constituency Grammar, here's an image borrowed from this Wikipedia article: Tree diagram examples

  • What diagram are you talking about? ("I am angry" doesn't have a verb, since "am" is only an auxiliary.)
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 5:27
  • @Greg Lee Whatever diagram, I guess. I don't think it's an auxiliary, I think it's a copula or a linking verb.
    – JK2
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 5:41
  • Until you can say what diagram you mean, your question will remain uninterpretable.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 5:53
  • You asked "If so, how come you end up with the same diagram for two different structures?" I'm asking you what "the same diagram" is. What is this diagram that "I hit him" and "I am angry" have in common?
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 6:16
  • @Greg Lee In the example Dependency diagram shown above, simply take the three nodes representing "We", "are" and "trying", and replace each word with "I", "hit" and "him," respectively. And you get a Dependency diagram for "I hit him." Now, take the same three nodes and replace each word with "I", "am" and "angry", respectively, and you get a Dependency diagram for "I am angry." So you end up with the same diagram for Sentences 1 and 2, which are structurally different. The same can be said about Constituency diagrams.
    – JK2
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 6:29

1 Answer 1


I will try to answer the question from the phrase structure/constituency grammar perspective.

Assuming that you are asking:

  • Is there a structural difference between sentences like 1. and 2.?
    1. 'I am angry.'
    2. 'I hit him.'
  • Specifically, is there a difference between predicates like 'angry' and direct objects like 'him', in sentences like those?

The answer is currently believed to be yes. Broad stroke derivations below:

If you're familiar with bracket notation, 1. starts out as:
VP: [hit him]
and proceeds as:
vP: [I [hit him]]

Whereas 2. starts out as: XP: [I angry]
and proceeds as:
VP: [BE [I angry]]
TP: [I [am [t angry]]]

So although your two sentences look similar "on the surface", they're not structurally similar in the parts you seem to be interested in:

  • The category of the predicate vs. the direct object,

  • The properties of the inflected verb,

  • The configuration between subject and predicate, and subject and direct object.

This article by Lohndahl (2006) could be helpful:

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