I'm not a fluent english speaker. While speaking this language, we usually prefer the implicit objective subordinate clauses (with subject in the accusative case, if it exists) to the corresponding explicit ones, precisely as in classic latin. (I do not know if the word "objective" is correct: I say that a subordinate clause is objective when it functions as object of the verb of the principal clause.)

For instance, we prefer:

(a) they want [me to do this]


(b) they want [that I do this]


Observe that in (a) the subject "me" of the subordinate is in the accusative case, while in (b) the subject "I" of the subordinate is in the nominative case.

My question is: is this always syntactically correct? Can we always substitute an explicit objective subordinate clause with an implicit one?

Let me present another (trickier and maybe incorrect) example. Can we use the sentence:

(c) they showed [the hypothesis to be correct]

instead of:

(d) they showed [that the hypothesis is/was correct]


Observe that the subject "the hypothesis" of the subordinate does not change his form between (c) and (d), as it does not have the nominative/accusative cases. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, in the english language, the only english words still having a difference between their nominative and accusative forms are the personal pronouns. Maybe, because of this, it is the case that the implicit objective subordinate clause is eligible just when the subject of the subordinate is a pronoun. Is this true? Was it different in the so-called Old English? I expect that this syntactical construction was more frequent in Old English (or "to be more frequent in Old English", lol), as this was the case in Latin and probably in Proto-Indoeuropean as well. Again, if I'm not mistaken: I am not a linguist.

  • Congratulations, you've discovered object complement clauses. English uses them a lot, and so do most languages. There are four types in English: That-clauses and Wh-clauses, both of which are tensed (I think that he's coming; I like what he did with it), and Infinitive clauses and gerund clauses, which are untensed (I want him to be honest with us; I enjoy living near the lake). They are all Noun Clauses, in the sense that they can be subjects or objects in a main clause, just like ordinary Noun Phrases. All of them are governed by the predicate in the main clause.
    – jlawler
    Sep 22 '19 at 2:23
  • You're analysing (a) incorrectly. The clause "me to do this" is not the object of "want". "Me" is the syntactic object of "want" (hence the accusative case) and only the sematic (understood) subject of the subordinate clause. Thus the structure is "They want me [to do this]. In (b) "I" is subject of the finite subordinate clause and hence is nominative case.
    – BillJ
    Sep 22 '19 at 11:22
  • Thank you, jlawler and BillJ, for your comments. BillJ, I analysed (a) in that way bacause in latin we usually do the same thing. For instance, when we say "voluit [me ire]" (in english "he wanted me to go"), then we say that "voluit" is the principal clause and that "me ire" is an object-subordinate (functioning as object of "voluit"), whose verb is "ire" and is at the infinitive mood and whose syntactic subject is the "me" and it is at the accusative case. I observed the analogy with its english translation and so I though I was supposed to analyse it in the same way. Sep 22 '19 at 12:57
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    I see. In English it would typically be called a catenative construction, where "want" is a catenative verb, and the non-finite clause "to do this" is its catenative complement. "Me" is called a 'raised' object: the verb that "me" relates to syntactically is higher in the constituent structure than the one it relates to semantically.
    – BillJ
    Sep 22 '19 at 15:11
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    More on the syntax of English Acc + Inf complement clauses here. There are two general kinds, with two different rules, here called "Equivalent Noun Phrase Deletion", or Equi for short, and "Subject-Raising", or Raising for short. I think BillJ would call one of them "catenative", but I'm never sure which; the term isn't as widely used as he might prefer. Anyway, both rules work for subjectless infinitives, too; that's called the "A" type. Accusative plus infinitive is the "B" type, so we talk about A-Raising and B-Raising, for instance.
    – jlawler
    Sep 23 '19 at 15:27

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