Verb Phrase (VP) Analysis

The Verb Phrase (VP) consists of a main (lexical) verb with, optionally, a number of auxillary verbs in front.

  • (AUX) VERB
  • e.g. He might have been watching me

Consider the following text:

By 1980 my three children were adults and away at their universities. Within a  year or two they would leave home and begin their careers apart from me, and the richest and most fulfilling period in my life would abruptly come to an end. I had already had a foretaste of this. As every parent knows, infancy and childhood seem to last forever. Then adolescence arrives and promptly leaves on the next bus, and one is sharing the family home with likeable young adults who are more intelligent, better company and in many ways wiser than oneself. But childhood has gone, and in the silence one stares at the empty whisky bottles in the pantry and wonders if any number of drinks will fill the void.

(Ballard, JG. (2008) Miracles of life: Shanghai to Shepperton. London: Fourth Estate)

Task: List all the VPs

  • were
  • would leave
  • (would) begin
  • would (abruptly) come
  • had (already) had
  • knows
  • seem
  • to last
  • arrives
  • leaves
  • is sharing
  • are
  • has gone
  • stares
  • wonders
  • will fill

 

Task: Show whether each VP is finite or non-finite

Also state the tense of the VP and the aspect:

Finite? Tense Aspect
were Y past simple
would leave Y habitual past simple
(would) begin Y habitual past simple
would abruptly come Y habitual past simple
had already had Y past perfect
knows Y present simple
seem Y present simple
to last N NONE
arrives Y present simple
leaves Y present simple
is sharing Y present progressive
are Y present simple
has gone Y past perfect
stares Y present simple
wonders Y present simple
will fill Y future simple

Without VPs

What does the text look like with all the VPs removed.

By 1980 my three children ——– adults and away at their universities. Within a  year or two they ———————— home and ——— their careers apart from me, and the richest and most fulfilling period in my life ————- abruptly ———- to an end. I ———————- a foretaste of this. As every parent ————, infancy and childhood ———— ————– forever. Then adolescence ———– and promptly ———– on the next bus, and one —- ————— the family home with likeable young adults who ——- more intelligent, better company and in many ways wiser than oneself. But childhood ————, and in the silence one ——– at the empty whisky bottles in the pantry and ————– if any number of drinks ————- —– the void.

 


Some grammars treat objects and complements as part of the VP. For simplicity I have restricted the VP to only the verbal elements.

Leave a Reply