I am having trouble parsing a sentence that I read in Douglas Biber, Susan Conrad, Geoffrey Leech's Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English (2002).

The sentence is:

He was surprised to find himself out of breath. (p. 50)

To me, the main verb is 'was' and the subject complement is 'surprised'. After that point, I hit a major snag and do not understand how to parse the rest of the sentence.

According to the book authors, the sentence is parsed as:

  • find - main verb, complex transitive
  • himself - direct object
  • out of breath - object predicative/ object complement

I cannot understand how 'find' is the main verb or what exactly is the complex verb. Is it: to be surprised to find oneself? What about 'was' in 'was surprised?

  • 1
    Isn't was surprised the past simple singular passive form of the verb to surprise?
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 19 '20 at 17:36
  • 1
    Yes, though it could also be just a predicate adjective, especially since there's no agent phrase, and it has an infinitive complement clause.
    – jlawler
    Aug 19 '20 at 18:02
  • 1
    you may want to take a look at linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/14376/445
    – Alex B.
    Aug 19 '20 at 18:33
  • @AlexB. The predicative complement of "was" is the AdjP "surprised to find himself out of breath", where the embedded infinitival clause "to find himself out if breath" is complement of "surprised". "Himself" is Od of "find", and the PP "out of breath" is complement of "find"
    – BillJ
    Aug 21 '20 at 15:57
  • 1
    The book appears to have parsed just the subordinate clause.
    – BillJ
    Aug 23 '20 at 16:54

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