The diagram is from a lesson given by someone on YT. My question is with regard to the Adv phrases that follow the linking/copula verb. My understanding is that only predicate adjectives or predicate nominatives can follow a linking verb - not adverbial phrases. Am I misunderstanding something? Is this tree incorrect ? or what have I misunderstood?

Also - is "under water" is a prepositional phrase - so does it fall under a predicate nominative or predicate adjective?

I think "misleading" is a predicate adjective - as the participle "misleading" functioning as an adjective.

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  • In English? Or generally? Please tag appropriately. Also do you want to include the null copula in the question? (-; Commented May 11, 2014 at 1:39
  • I suppose I intended to ask "In English" but glad I did not because I never knew how it applies to other languages.
    – avkaapstad
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 5:31
  • 1
    There seem to be several mistakes in this diagram. I take it that RelC stands for relative clause, but "(the report) that..." is no relative clause. "Is misleading": Here "is" is no modal verb and "misleading" is no adverb.
    – rogermue
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 6:09

3 Answers 3


Nominals (nouns and pronouns), adjectives, prepositions, subordinators (subordinate conjunctions), and some adverbs can be predicative expressions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicative_expression. The notion that a predicative expression must be an adjective or noun is too narrow. While it is true that adjectives and nominals are widely acknowledged as functioning as predicative expressions, prepositions, subordinators, and some adverbs can clearly also be viewed as predicative expressions at times.

Thus in the example in the question, the preposition under is a predicative preposition, and the participle/adjective misleading is also a predicative expression. Here are some more examples:

 a. It is on the table.

 b. The game was after school got out.

 c. That is soon.

The preposition on, the subordinator after and the adverb soon are predicative expressions. Note that participles (present active and past passive) are predicative expressions too (in fact, they are the canonical type of predicatives), e.g.

 d. It is happening.

 e. It is done.

The present progressive participle happening and the past passive participle done are predicative expressions.

The following article provides a good overview of what predicates and predicative expressions can be interpreted as being: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicate_%28grammar%29. I think real insight about the nature of predicates comes with knowledge of predicate-argument structures. Modern theories of syntax and grammar draw a three-way distinction; they acknowledge predicates, the arguments of predicates, and the adjuncts on predicates. Consider the following example in this regard:

 f. The book is on the table.

If one views the two-word combination is on as the predicate, then this predicate takes the two arguments the book and the table. This approach to predicates requires, however, that one jettison the (in my view erroneous) stance that the predicate in such a sentence is the entire string is on the table. The traditional binary division of the clause into a subject NP and a predicate VP is not supported by emperical considerations.

I will conclude this answer with a mysterious aspect of predicative expressions. Some adverbs can be predicative expressions, such as soon in the example above. Other adverbs, however, cannot function as predicative expressions, in particular those ending in -ly, e.g.

 g. *It is happily.

 h. *That is necessarily.

Why adverbs ending in -ly cannot function as predicative expressions, but most all other word categories can, is mysterious to me.


That is very language-specific and works well for English, but not for many other languages. E.g. Russian can have an adverbial phrase following a copula, and many languages (like German) don't distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, moreover, many languages (like most of the Altaic languages) have neither adjectives nor adverbs.

  • That's right. In English there are two main uses for be: (1) to mark non-verbal predicates (predicate adjectives and predicate nouns), and (2) to mark verbal constructions, like the Passive and the Progressive. The adjectives and nouns fall under (1), but there are a lot of other syntactic constructions that use be. And participles are not adjectives, though they can be used as attributive adjectives.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 16:10
  • @Jlawler, I think all the uses of "be" you point to here are instances of the same one auxiliary verb. In other words, there is no real difference between auxiliary "be" and copula "be". Stated otherwise, copula "be" is an auxiliary, not a full verb. We know that it is an auxiliary because it licenses subject-auxiliary inversion and VP-ellipsis, just like the other auxiliaries do. Commented May 10, 2014 at 16:45
  • It's an auxiliary in both cases, true; in fact, be is virtually always an auxiliary verb. However, it's not always followed by an adjective or a noun in case (2); that was the point. And I don't use the term "copula"; it's another holdover from medieval grammar. Auxiliary does the job nicely, and "copula" indicates a "linking" metaphor that doesn't refer to syntactic constituents, but rather to more vaguely remembered grammar school catechism.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 16:46
  • @Jlawler, agreed. Commented May 10, 2014 at 16:55
  • Words that can be a copula or an auxilary verb can vary greatly - ranging from 'paint' to 'raise': The the fence was painted red - here 'painted' is a copula and 'red' a predicate. The moon rose red - here 'rose' is a copula and 'red' a predicate.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 22:30

Sorry for a too short answer, but I guess the entire question can be answered in this way:

The original phrase assumes an omitted word:

the island is [located] under water

Which forms a pretty nice predicate adjective, as you suggested.

  • 2
    That doesn't work. It fails with a simple example such as "He is in a hurry" --> "*He is [located] in a hurry". Commented May 10, 2014 at 16:38
  • @TimOsborne Sorry I missed your comment. English does not have single words for different states of an object, e.g. time, location, or other condition. Only "located" is there, but there's no such thing as "time'd" ("he is behind schedule") or "condition'ed" ("he is in trouble" or as in your example). Does it make sense? Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 19:55

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