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2.3. PP-complements (prepositional objects)

This section discusses what we will call prepositional object verbs (PO-verbs), that is, verbs taking a prepositional phrase as their complement. Some examples of such verbs are given in (288). In these examples, the PP-complement is the only internal argument of the verb: since the verb also takes an external argument (realized as the subject of the clause), we will refer to these verbs as intransitive PO-verbs.

Example 288
Intransitive PO-verbs
a. Jan heeft op zijn vader gewacht.
  Jan has  for his father  waited
  'Jan waited for his father.'
b. Jan heeft op het hert geschoten.
  Jan has  at the deer  shot
  'Jan shot at the deer.'
c. Jan heeft op de hond van de buurman gepast.
  Jan has  after the dog of the neighbor  looked
  'Jan has looked after the neighborʼs dog.'

The most conspicuous property of the PP-complements in (288) is that they have a fixed preposition, the choice of which is lexically determined by the verb; substituting any other preposition for the preposition op in these examples results in ungrammaticality. That the verb determines the choice of the prepositions is also clear from the fact that the preposition op in the examples in (288) must be rendered by different prepositions in the English translations of these examples: to wait for; to shoot at; to look after. Furthermore, the prepositions normally do not have a well-defined semantic content, for which reason we will refer to them as functional prepositions. As a result of this lack of semantic content, the meaning of the combination of the verb and its PP-complement is not built up compositionally, but instead listed in the lexicon as a semantic unit.
      PP-complements can be found in various syntactic frames. They co-occur not only with external arguments, as in (288), but also with internal arguments. In (289), for instance, we find verbs taking an internal argument that is realized as an accusative object and to which we will therefore refer as transitive PO-verbs.

Example 289
Transitive PO-verbs
a. Jan heeft zijn mening op verkeerde informatie gebaseerd.
  Jan has  his opinion  on  inaccurate information  based
  'Jan based his opinion on inaccurate information.'
b. Jan heeft zijn kinderen tegen ongewenste invloeden beschermd.
  Jan has  his children  against  undesirable influences  protected
  'Jan protected his children against undesirable influences.'
c. Jan heeft Marie tot diefstal gedwongen.
  Jan has  Marie  to  theft  forced
  'Jan forced Marie to steal.'

Since we have seen in Section 2.1.2 that verbs with a single nominal argument can be either intransitive or unaccusative, it will not come as a surprise that there are also PO-verbs exhibiting unaccusative behavior. Some examples of such unaccusative PO-verbs are given in (290), in which the unaccusative status of the verbs is clear from the fact that they take the perfect auxiliary zijn'to be'.

Example 290
Unaccusative PO-verbs
a. Jan is over die opmerking gevallen.
  Jan has  over that remark  fallen
  'Jan took offense at that remark.'
b. Jan is van zijn ziekte hersteld.
  Jan has  from his illness  recovered
  'Jan has recovered from his illness.'
c. Jan is bezweken onder zijn last.
  Jan has  collapsed  under his burden
  'Jan collapsed under his burden.'

      Table 7 shows that the three types of PO-verbs in examples (288) to (290) fit in nicely with the classification of verbs on the basis of the nominal arguments discussed in Section 2.1: it simply seems to be the case that some intransitive, transitive and unaccusative verbs can (or must) select an additional PP-complement. We will discuss these verbs in Section 2.3.2.

Table 7: Main types of prepositional object verbs
  external argument internal arguments subsection
    NP PP  
intransitive + + Section 2.3.2, sub II
transitive + + + Section 2.3.2, sub I
unaccusative + + Section 2.3.2, sub II

      It is not the case that all of the verb types that we have distinguished in Section 2.1 can be supplemented with a PP-complement. For instance, we are not aware of clear cases in which ditransitive or nom-dat verbs take an additional PP-complement. This suggests that there is an upper boundary to the number of internal arguments a verb can take: a verb has two internal arguments at the most. This claim may of course be too strong, and potential counterexamples are verbs of exchange like kopen'to buy', verkopen'to sell' and betalen'to pay' in (291), for which it has been claimed that they actually do have three internal arguments.

Example 291
a. Jan verkocht het boek voor tien euro aan Marie.
  Jan sold  the book  for ten euros  to Marie
b. Marie kocht het boek voor tien euro van Jan.
  Marie bought  the book  for ten euros  from Jan
c. Marie betaalde Jan tien euro voor het boek.
  Marie paid  Jan  ten euros  for the book

The suggested generalization above implies that at least one of the presumed arguments in the examples in (291), probably the voor-PP, is an adjunct. Given that the distinction between complements and adjuncts is often not clear, it seems that both the proponents and the opponents for assuming adjunct status for the voor-PP will have a hard time in substantiating their position. Here we will assume that the voor-PPs are adjuncts, because they satisfy the adverb test in (292), which singles out VP adverbs; see the discussion in Section 2.3.1, sub VII, which shows that PP-complements cannot be paraphrased by means of ... en PRONOUN doet dat XP clauses. For more evidence in favor of our claim that the voor-PPs in (291) are adjuncts, we refer the reader to the discussion of example (338) in Section 2.3.2, sub I.

Example 292
a. Jan verkocht het boek aan Marie en hij deed dat voor tien euro.
  Jan sold  the book  to Marie  and  he  did  that  for ten euros
b. Marie kocht het boek van Jan en ze deed dat voor tien euro.
  Marie bought  the book  from Jan  and  she  did  that  for ten euros
c. Marie betaalde Jan tien euro en ze deed dat voor het boek.
  Marie paid  Jan  ten euros  and  she  did  that  for the book

      The claim that verbs have two internal arguments at most receives indirect support from the fact that there are verbs taking both a dative argument and a PP-complement, which shows that the non-existence of ditransitive and nom-dat PO-verbs cannot be attributed to the presence of a dative phrase. If a dative argument is present, PP-complements often alternate with nominal complements; the examples in (293) illustrate this type of verb frame alternation.

Example 293
NP Theme-PP alternation with ditransitive verbs
a. Jan vertelde mij het verhaal.
  Jan  told  me  the story
a'. Jan vertelde mij over de overstroming.
  Jan told  me  about the flood
b. Jan vroeg me een beloning.
  Jan asked  me a reward
b'. Jan vroeg mij om een beloning.
  Jan asked  me  for a reward

The examples in (294) show that similar verb frame alternations can be found with certain transitive verbs; see Section 3.3.2 for a more detailed discussion of this alternation.

Example 294
NP Theme-PP alternation with transitive verbs
a. Marie vertrouwt haar vriend.
  Marie trusts  her friend
b. Jan eet zijn brood.
  Jan eats  his bread
a'. Marie vertrouwt op haar vriend.
  Marie trusts  on her friend
  'Marie trusts her friend.'
b'. Jan eet van zijn brood.
  Jan eats  from his bread
  'Jan is eating from his bread.'

The NPTheme-PP alternation illustrated in (293) and (294) is not possible with all (di-)transitive verbs, and often has a subtle meaning effect. Nevertheless, the nature of the PP-complements seems sufficiently close to that of the nominal complements to merit a separate discussion of such examples, which can be found in Section 2.3.3. Besides the examples discussed so far, there are various other cases that merit discussion and which will be taken up in Section 2.3.4. But before we discuss the individual classes, Section 2.3.1 will discuss some properties that all PO-verb constructions seem to share.

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