I'm a bit stumped because I see so many things going on here. The first gloss is pretty straight forward:

I have never seen a fish get cooked like that. S|V|OC(clause)

But I'm really more interested in the syntax of the clausal object complement.

Is get cooked a passive construction?

I have never seen a fish get cooked (by someone) like that.

Which doesn't seem to have the active form:

*I have never seen someone get cook a fish like that.

But maybe:

I have never seen someone get a fish cooked like that.

But this seems like a pretty big change in syntax. And the verb get does not argee with the subject.

Someone gets a fish cooked.

A fish gets cooked.

Or, is get a linking verb, similar to become?

I have never seen a fish become/be cooked like that. S|V|OC(clause)

Also, these clausal complements seem to be non-finite, at least in terms of their relation to the main verb, which at this point is just an added complication. What I'm cuing in on is that these complement clauses are following very different syntactical patterns than main clauses. They seem to lack tense or at least subject verb agreement. I need a sensible way to view what's happening here. I hope someone can help.

  • I'll never understand why answers to questions get upvoted, for being worthy answers, while the question does not, as if it were not worth asking in the first place. Dec 26, 2019 at 5:29

1 Answer 1


In this sentence, "get," just like "be" in other passive sentences, is the passivizer. That is, the active form of "I have never seen a fish get cooked like that" is (just like the active form of "I have never seen a fish be cooked like that")

I have never seen someone cook a fish like that.

Modern English has acquired a static/dynamic distinction, but only in the passive (that is "be cooked" is static, meaning that the speaker isn't focusing on a change of state, and "get cooked" is dynamic, meaning the speaker is focusing on a change of state.)

"Get" is an even trickier word, because it's playing a completely different role in "I have never seen someone get a fish cooked like that." In that, I would say it is a causative construction only introducing a dynamic passive. (Making it semantically equivalent to the sentence "I have never seen someone make a fish get cooked like that" which keeps the causative marker and the passivizing marker separate).

I agree with your analysis that the "someone cook a fish like that" clause is non-finite, but don't have a reason why this construction would take a non-finite clause.

  • 1
    You might note the generality of the construction "I saw him take the money, I heard him break the glass, I watched him lift the lid, I felt him touch my hand"
    – user6726
    Dec 25, 2019 at 16:58
  • 1
    Right. Sense verbs in English can take to-less infinitive complements, so the get is an infinitive form. It's still a get-passive, though. Since get is the causative/inchoative form of be (and also have, but not here), there's a defeasable invited inference that the subject of a get-passive, while the patient, not the agent, nevertheless had some causal effect. Viz, He was arrested vs He got arrested.
    – jlawler
    Dec 26, 2019 at 1:41
  • @jlawler - that's 'defeasible', not that I've ever used the word.
    – amI
    Dec 26, 2019 at 8:21
  • English lost the infinite inflection -en and replaced it with the very similar sounding -ing gerund, however its usage is a matter of aspect now, nevertheless its I saw him take a bath, but bathing, without any real semantic difference, perhaps only to maintain tense agreement (I saw him take the money after taking a bath; no, I didn't take the bath. I meant, I saw him bath and take the money--yet I'd say I saw him bathing). The past participle nterpretation for the former, which is however logical, strikes me as pattently ridiculous from a German point of view, which'd use a bare inf.
    – vectory
    Dec 29, 2019 at 5:12
  • Second, the passiv, perfective prefix Ger ge- is comparable: noch nie einen Fish gesehen "never seen a fish", noch nie einen Fish gekocht "never cooked a fish", noch nie einen Fish so gekocht gesehen "never seen a fish so cooked like that"--which is very different, admittedly, but there are thousands of years of divergence after all. This also fits with be-, a fossilized prefix, noch nie einen Fisch behandelt "never treated a fish", ?noch nie einen Fish so behandelt gesehen "never seen a fish be handled like that", but this is virtually always expressed through a relative clause.
    – vectory
    Dec 29, 2019 at 5:34

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