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As Praedicativum (also: Predicative ) is referred to in the grammar a set portion indicating a property and this to the subject or the object relates the set. In contrast to attributes, however , the predicatives form parts of sentences that are separate from subject or object. A distinction is made between “primary” predicatives, which are mandatory and contribute a substantial part of the content to a predicate , and “secondary” or “free” predicatives, which can be added freely as an additional part of a sentence in an already complete sentence and an additional property of the subject or object describe.

Free predicatives are often difficult to distinguish from adverbials ; Theoretically, the difference is that predicatives are strictly related to a quality of an individual rather than to the event denoted by the verb as is the case with adverbials (such as the nature of an action or the relationship of a situation to this event such as with causal adverbials). Adverbs are not referred to as predicatives, but always as adverbials, even if they have a predicative meaning component in addition to the adverbial.

A predicative use is otherwise possible in German for almost all types of words, except for verbs. There are even predicative subordinate clauses . A few words appear exclusively predicative without having any other attributive or adverbial use, e.g. B. does not matter appears predicative as in The rest does not matter , but not attributive: * an irrelevant remainder .

Mandatory Predicatives

Some verbs can only form a complete predicate in conjunction with a predicative . The subject- predicative characterizes the subject of the sentence and forms the predicate with verbs like be , will , remain , count as and prove to be . Latin grammars in this case denote the verb as copula and the predicative as predicate noun (so that the term predicative can then be restricted to free predicatives).

She is a teacher . ( Teacher: noun phrase in the nominative as subject-predicative)
You stay healthy . ( healthy: adjective as subject predicative)

Similarly, the object- predicative determines the accusative object of the sentence more closely and forms the predicate with verbs such as name , find , hold for , denote as and view as . (The preposition required by the verb is, however, interpreted as part of the predicative.)

He called the Chancellor a donkey . ( a donkey: noun phrase in the accusative as an object predicative)
He saw the case as closed . ( as done: participle as object predicative)

Obligatory predicatives in German are often adjectives / adjective groups, participles / participle groups or noun phrases in the nominative or accusative case, but adverbs / adverb groups, prepositional phrases , subject or object clauses and infinitive groups also occur in combination with sein .

While adjectives and participles are declined depending on their reference word when used as attributes in German , they remain undeclined when used as predicatives. In Latin, Romance and Slavic languages, on the other hand, there is also KNG congruence between the predicate noun and its reference word .

Free predicatives

Free (or "facultative") predicatives are clauses that add an additional property to the subject or object of the clause . This type of predicative is also referred to as depictive (especially based on the English-language literature). Some grammars also refer to these phenomena as minor predicates .

Differentiation of attributes and adverbials

In terms of their function, they must first be distinguished from expressions of the same type that are used as attributes . While the attribute names a property that is related to the noun as such, the depictive names a property that is related to the period of time at which the verbal act expires (whether it continues before or after it does not matter). Attributes and depictives can usually be clearly distinguished based on the position in the sentence and also on the word form:

Max has just now the shirts neatly brought out of the closet. (= The shirts were clean when he took them out; clean as a predicative)
Max took the clean shirts out of the closet earlier. (= clean to characterize the shirts as such; attribute)

In German, adjectives / adjective groups, participles / participle groups and prepositional phrases can be used as free predicatives. Adjectives and participles are not declined when used as a predicative in German; Because of the lack of congruence to the reference word, this cannot always be clearly determined. In addition, adjectives and participles also remain undeclined when used in adverbs, so that the distinction between predicative and adverbial terms is not visible. Only the different interpretations can then be used to differentiate. Some sentences then result in up to three different readings:

Example: "Hans left Maria angry."

= Hans was angry when he left Maria behind. ("Angry" as a predicative with reference to the subject, possibly also with reference to the object)
= Out of anger, Hans left Maria behind. ("Angry" as a causal adverbial or similar interpretation)

In other languages

In English

In English, adverbs formed from adjectives can be recognized by their own ending -ly , so that at least the delimitation from adverbial determinations must be made clearly:

John left Mary sad. (Adjective → predicative, meaning: John was sad when he left Maria, or: Maria was sad)
John left Mary sadly. (Adverb → adverbial determination, meaning: "a sad farewell", "it was sad for John to have to say goodbye".)

In Spanish

In Spanish, a strict distinction must also be made between predicative or secondary predicate (complemento predicativo) on the one hand and adverbial definition ( often recognizable by the ending -mente ) on the other. The secondary predicate always agrees with the subject or object to which it relates in terms of number and gender ( congruence ). I.e. This second statement, which is made by the secondary predicate, could be put into a separate sentence, consisting of the copula ser / estar (= to be) + predicate noun (which corresponds to the form after the secondary predicate).

Example: Maria spoke excitedly of her impressions.

  1. María hablaba excitada de sus impresiones. (Adjective → predicative, meaning: Maria was excited when she told the story.) Divided into two separate sentences: María hablaba de sus impresiones. María estaba excitada.
  2. María hablaba excitadamente de sus impresiones. (Adverb → adverbial definition, meaning: Maria told the story in an excited manner or her speaking was excited.) It is not possible to form two separate sentences.

In Latin

In contrast to German, the predicative in Latin is congruent with its reference word, so that it can usually be clearly identified. However, this also means that the word form cannot be used to distinguish it from the attribute.

Depictive and Resultative Predicatives

The property of predicting about subject or object is common to depictives and resultant adjectives . While depictives denote a state that is present at the same time as the action, resultative adjectives add a result state to the verbal action ( resultative as a function of an adjective is not the same as the type of action of verbs called " resultative "):

Depictive: He goes home sad . (with subject reference)
Depictive: She drinks the coffee black . (with object reference)
resultative: The bulldozer rolls the grass flat . (with object reference)

While depictives are separate parts of a sentence, resultative adjectives are parts of the compound predicate. They also attract the predicate stress, as do other elements that come immediately before the verb. In contrast, depictives have their own stress, followed by another stress on the verb:

He drank the coffee in BLACK (Depictive)
He was black angry (resultant)

In order to show the stress ratio and to avoid ambiguity, resultative adjectives in German can also be written together with the verb as one word. Summarizing is never an option with depictives.


  • Christian Touratier (Ed.): Compléments prédicatifs et attributs du complément d'objet en Latin . Publications de l'Université de Provence Aix-Marseille (PUP), Aix-en-Provence 1991, ISBN 978-2-85399-253-4 .
  • DJ Napoli: Resultatives . In: RE Asher (Ed.): The encyclopedia of language and linguistics . Volume 7: Rad to Soc. Pergamon Press, Oxford et al. 1994, ISBN 0-08-035943-4 , pp. 3562-3566.
  • Friedemann Weitz: Change of perspective with the predicative? A suggestion to (explain) the phenomenon . In: suggestion. Journal for high school education. 46, 2000, ISSN  0402-5563 pp. 258-275.
  • Eva Schultze-Berndt, Nikolaus P. Himmelmann : Depictive secondary predicates in crosslinguistic perspective . In: Linguistic typology. 8, 2004, ISSN  1430-0532 , pp. 59-131.
  • Nikolaus P. Himmelmann (Ed.): Secondary predication and adverbial modification. The typology of depictives . Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2005, ISBN 0-19-927226-3 ( Oxford linguistics ).

Web links

Wiktionary: predicative  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Predicative  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: predicate  nouns - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See the concept of the "transparent adverb" in: Wilhelm Geuder, "Depictives and Transparent Adverbs". In: Jennifer Austin, Stefan Engelberg & Gisa Rauh (eds), Adverbials. The Interplay between Meaning, Context, and Syntactic Structure. John Benjamin, Amsterdam 2004. pp. 131-165. - An example are interpretations of sadly like here in the section #In English , when the meaning is: "He was sad to leave her".
  2. a b Deutsche Grammatik , Tandem-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-89731-890-8 , p. 225
  3. Duden. The grammar. 7th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , pp. 800f.
  4. ^ Gisela Domke, Eberhard Gärtner: Brief Spanish language teaching . 3. Edition. People and Knowledge Volkseigener Verlag, Berlin 1974.
  5. For resultative adjectives with subject reference, which are actually an exception, see under Unaccusative Verb # Resultative Adjectives
  6. ^ Susanne Winkler: Focus and Secondary Predication . Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin 1997.