A simple sentence (clause) containing a verb; parts of sentence in a dependency relation

Predicate Pred, Pnom, AuxV


In this section our conception of predicate will be described. In its representation mainly three functions are used - Pred, Pnom and AuxV. We shall start by the general part Delimitation of the predicate, which falls into two subdivisions. In the first (Dependency of the predicate) the reader will be instructed how and where the predicate of the main, and that of the dependent clause, are to be suspended, and in the second (Modifying predicate) it is specified what are te possible dependents of the predicate. The subsequent part ( Compound verb forms) is devoted to the function AuxV, used to represent compound verbal forms containing the verb to be.

According to some conceptions there are four kinds of predicates. They are described in the following four divisions. In the division Simple verbal predicate a simple verbal predicate which consists of one word can be found. Compound verbal predicate consists of more words and involves either marked modality or the phases of an event. The part Compound verbal predicate devoted to it consists of three subdivisions. In The structure of the compound verbal predicate its inner structure is dealt with, in Modification of a compound predicate it is its modification, and in Problem of subject and object with compound predicate a minor problem is pointed out concerning its subject or object. The verbal-nominal predicate follows in the subdivision verbal nominal predicate. In the first subdivision, the structure of verbal-nominal predicate we again deal with its structure and we introduce the afun value Pnom, by which the nominal part of this type of a predicate is denoted. This can be expressed in several ways: nominative of a noun (Representation of Pnom by agreeing noun in nominative), genitive of a noun Representation of Pnom by incongruent genitive noun), a compound adjective (Representation of Pnom by a compound form of adjective), a nominal adjective (Representation of Pnom by a nominal form of adjective), infinitive (Representation of Pnom by an infinitive), possessive pronoun (Representation of Pnom by a possesive pronoun), numerical expression (Representation of Pnom by a numerical expression) and a subordinate clause (Representation of Pnom by a subordinate sentence). What fails to be included in this list and what appears to be similar to a possible expression of a nominal part of the predicate, is usually an adverbial (Adv). This fact is mentioned in Possible mistaking of Pnom for Adv.

Further on, in the subdivision Modification of verbal-nominal predicate the modification of the verbal nominal predicate is discussed. The last type of a predicate is the purely nominal predicate, which we, as a matter of fact, do not regard as a predicate, see the part Predicate purely nominal in two-member sentences.

The last part of this section, called Distinguishing state and passive is devoted to distinguishing 'state' from passive. The state exhibits the structure of the verbal-nominal predicate, while the passive is a verbal predicate with the auxiliary be.

Delimitation of the predicate


The Predicate represents a basic sentence part, i.e., by means of which some property, state, change or activity is attributed to the subject.

Dependency of the predicate


The predicate is the head (governing word) of its clause. The predicate of the main clause represents the root of the tree for the sentence, however, technically it is suspended under the initial symbol of the tree (labelled #) and it obtains afun Pred. In subordinate clauses it is not denoted as Pred but by a corresponding function of the subordinate clause (see the examples (2), (3), (4) below).

With subordinate clauses introduced by a reflexive pronoun (který which, kdo who, ...) or pronominal adverb (kde where, kdy when, ...), their predicates get suspended directly under the node governing the whole subordinate clause, while the introducing element depends on a the part of the subordinate clause (exx. (2), (3)). If a subordinate attributive clause is introduced by a conjunction, this conjunction gets suspended under the governing item and the subordinate predicate depends on the conjunction (if need be, cf. Subordinating conjunctions AuxC).

All this holds to the last bit if coordination of more main or subordinate clauses is not the case. As regards coordination, the rules contained in Coordination (sentential, of sentence parts) Coord, <afun> _Co must be applied in addition.

The predicates described below are emphasized.


In the examples (of parts) of analytical tree structures, the nodes are labelled by Czech lemmas and analytical functions (afuns); for each tree we present (the part of) the Czech sentence the structure of which it represents, accompanied by English glosses; in case the glosses would not give sufficient information about the phenomenon under discussion, we add a literal or full English translation of the Czech sentence.

  1. Kominík   vymetá   komíny   .  
    Chimneysweep   sweeps   chimneys   .  

  2. nevěděl,   kdy   usne  
    did-not-know   when   falls-asleep  

  3. nevěděl,   který   nadešel   den  
    did-not-know   which   came   day  

  4. nevěděl,   že   dovymetal  
    did-not-know   that   he-had-finished-sweeping  

Modifying predicate


A predicate can have inner (obligatory) and free complements (dependents). They are classified as an object, an adverbial and a complement. Also the so-called sunken parentheses (not separated by commas - Parts of multi-word constructions, some particles, decayed parenthesis AuxY) and sometimes even emphasizing particles ( Emphasizing words AuxZ) can be hung on the predicate. For technical reasons even a whole range of further parts of the sentence can be represented as 'dependent' on the predicate.

If a subject is contained in the clause it depends on the predicate, cf. the following example:

otec   spí  
father   sleeps  

In sentences in which subject is not expressed, Czech being a pro-drop language (e.g. Půjdeme na pivo Shall go out for a beer), we do not complete the subject into the clause, as distinct from what is usual in traditional grammars. This follows from the postulate in Relation to the morphological level, according to which no nodes may be added or taken out of a tree structure. Thus, from the point of view of their outward look, they have the same structure as one-member verbal sentences which have no subject (e.g. Venku prší, lit. Outside is raining). The main element of a one-member verbal sentence is constituted by the predicate and it is assigned afun Pred in the main clause, or the corresponding function of a subordinate clause in the subordinate clause.

Odlehlo   mu   na   prsou   .  
it-relieved   him   on   chest   .  

Compound verb forms


The verbal part of a predicate (without modal verbs) can be expressed by a simple or a compound form; the latter form (past or future tense, conditional, passive etc.) contains one or more forms of the auxiliary verb být to be.

The term “compound verb form” must be distinguished from “compound verbal predicate” (the part Compound verbal predicate), with which the whole predicate is composed of a modal or phase verb and a verb form of the finite verb. All auxiliary verbs with a compound (analytical) verb form will be denoted afun AuxV and suspended under the “lexical” part of the verb form. To distinguish passive (with AuxV) from verbal nominal predicate see the part Distinguishing state and passive.

  1. Karel   by   byl   sedával   na   své   židli  
    Karel   would   be-Past   used-to-sit   on   his   chair  
    Charles would have used to sit in his chair.

Simple verbal predicate


A predicate is usually represented by a finite verb form, either 'lexical' (ex. (1)), or být to be as a 'substitute' (ex. (2)), or as the verb of existence ((3), (4)). In connection with the forms of být, note the parts Compound verb forms (compound verbal forms) and Distinguishing state and passive (distinguishing between a 'state' and the passive).

The predicate can also be represented by a word which becomes a syntactic verb. In the example (5) this is an interjection.

Also the words lze can and nelze cannot are regarded as syntactic verbs (ex. (7)).

Examples (the simple verbal predicate with afun Pred is emphasized):

  1. matka   pláče  
    mother   weeps  

  2. byl   v   nemocnici  
    he-was   in   hospital  

  3. Jsou   lidé,   kteří   nevěří  
    are   people   who   do-not-believe  
    There are people who do not believe

  4. Budiž   světlo!  
    let-be   light  
    Let it be light!

  5. Hajdy   domů   !  
    Hurrah   home   !  
    Hurrah for home!

  6. člověk   se   po   těch   schodech   utento  
    one   Refl.   on   those   stairs   gets-done  
    One gets done (in) on those stairs.

  7. Lze   se   podívat  
    one-can   Refl.   look  
    One can have a look.

Compound verbal predicate


The structure of the compound verbal predicate


The compound predicate (composed of the infinitive of a finite verb and of a finite form of a modal or phase verb) is regarded as a connection of Pred and its Obj (infinitive).

The infinitive does not represent a classical object, the concept of afun Obj being a little wider here. Accordingly, this function never passes into afun Sb as can be the case with classical objects, e.g., with passivisation. The infinitive in compound predicates represents Obj under any circumstances.

With modal verbs (except for dá se can be) the particle se can never get afun AuxT; only in some cases it is assigned afun AuxR.

The part denoted Pred is emphasized type.

  1. Včera   mělo   pršet  
    yesterday   it-should   rain  
    It should have rained yesterday

  2. Rána   musela   přijít  
    blow   should   come  
    The blow had to come

Modification of a compound predicate


Essentially, there are two possibilities where to suspend the node that modifies a compound predicate - under the node with afun Pred (finite verb) or under the node with afun Obj (infinitive). The rules which decide are as follows (analogous with the rules for modifying verbal nominal predicate - the part Modification of verbal-nominal predicate below).

The subject always depends on the node with afun Pred (ex. (1), (2)). All valency modifications (i.e., both objects and obligatory adverbials) depend on the verb having such valency, i.e., on the infinitive (ex. (3), (4), (5)). As regards the remaining adverbials, they are suspended according to intuition. If we feel clear dependence (semantic appropriateness) of a free modification on an infinitive, we suspend it in this way. E.g., the adverbial complementation for apples in a clause you may come for apples belongs to the infinitive. On the other hand, the complementation due to illness in a clause he could not come due to illness belongs to the finite verb. In case no clear dependence is felt (usually with local, time and broad respect determinations) we suspend them under the finite verb (ex. (6), (7)). The adverbial determinations dependent on Pred relate through Pred to the whole compound predicate.

Also the infinitive of the copula být to be can depend on the modal finite verb, with Pnom depending on the copula (e.g. může to být pro obchodníky nepřijatelné this may be unacceptable for businessmen; omluva nemusí být závazkem an apology need not be an obligation). There are then three options as for the position of an Adv - modal verb, copula and Pnom; we comply to rules of a whole and of clear dependence; lists of respective valency frames will be used.


  1. Franta   nechtěl   upadnout  
    Franta   did-not-want   to-fall  

  2. Mohlo   by   se   zdát,   že   odpoví  
    It-could   be-Cond.   Refl.   appear   that   he-would-reply  

  3. školy   chtějí   přilákat   studenty  
    schools   want   to-allure   students  

  4. nemohla   poznat,   kdo   to   byl  
    she-could-not   recognize   who   that   was  

  5. chtěl   se   chovat   slušně  
    he-wanted   Refl.   to-behave   well  

  6. stát   nemůže   ve   světě   dělat   ostudu  
    state   may-not   in   world   cause   scandal  

  7. nemůže   přijít   štěstí,   kam   nevešla   láska  
    cannot   come   happiness   where   has-not-come   love  
    No happiness can come where love failed to arrive

Problem of subject and object with compound predicate


In what follows, five examples of representation of compound predicate are presented. As has been pointed out above, the infinitive with a modal verb always is handled as its Obj. In the first example the infinitive belongs to a verb not having an object participant, which fact makes the situation simple and clear.

The subsequent two examples differ in their structure. If to an infinitive of a verb having an object participant (as here) such a particular object in the proper form is found (here the accusative pravdu truth), it depends on this infinitive as an Obj. Should, however, such an element fulfilling semantically the function of an (underlying) object, as is the case with the nominative form (pravda) in a reflexive clause, it becomes the subject of the whole clause (Sb).

This also holds in the case in which Nominative and Accusative are expressed by an ambiguous form. Such cases are illustrated by the last two examples.

  1. může   se   diskutovat  
    it-can   Refl.   to-discuss  
    it can be discussed

  2. pravdu   se   může   chápat   různě  
    truth-Acc   Refl.   it-can   understand   differently  
    one can understand truth in different ways

  3. pravda   se   může   chápat   různě  
    truth-Nom   Refl.   can   understand   differently  
    truth can be understood in different ways

  4. pivo   se   může   vypít   různě  
    beer-Acc/Nom   Refl.   can   drink   differently  
    beer can be drunk in different ways

  5.   se   vytušit,   jak   litují  
    it-can   Refl.   imagine   how   they-regret  
    it can be imagined how they regret

verbal nominal predicate


the structure of verbal-nominal predicate


The verbal-nominal predicate consists of a verbal (copula in finite form) and a nominal (adjective, noun, ...) part. The copula gets afun Pred. The nominal part of the predicate obtains the function Pnom and depends on the copula.

In our approach, only the verb být to be is regarded as copula, although in current grammars also such verbs as become etc. can be handled in this way.


  1. Pivo   je   zdravé  
    beer   is   healthy  

  2. Tonda   byl   skvělý   člověk  
    Tony   was   excellent   man  

In the part Misinterpretation of complement the problem of commutability (formal similarity) of the nominal part of predicate and complement is discussed.

If copula is absent in the sentence (elided), the procedure remains the same as is usual with ellipses (see Ellipsis ExD, ExD_Co) and all the nodes which would depend on the absent copula (i.e., including the nominal part) obtain afun ExD (see also Predicate purely nominal in two-member sentences).

However, there are exceptions to this rule, concerning words like třeba necessary, nutno urgent, možno possible, záhodno advisable and their negative forms. Such words obtain afun Pred and take thus the function of the whole predicate in the tree. The part Ellipsis of copula with some verbo-nominal predicates is devoted to this phenomenon.

za   hodinu   možno   házet   kamením  
in   an-hour   allowed   to-throw   stones  
throwing stones allowed in an hour

Representation of Pnom by agreeing noun in nominative


If the nominal part of the predicate is expressed by a noun in nominative (in which, as a rule, also subject is expressed) and if we are in doubt to which noun in the sentence Pnom and to which Sb is to be assigned, we can find help in that we try to use one of them in instrumental. The noun which can be transformed in this way (diamant je drahokamem the diamond is a precious stone) in the sentence obtains the function Pnom.

  1. diamant   je   drahokam  
    diamond   is   precious-stone  

  2. jídlo   je   životní   úkon  
    eating   is   life   function  

  3. on   je   marnivec  
    he   is   vain-man  

  4. to   je   otec  
    this   is   father  

Representation of Pnom by an agreeing noun in instrumental


Pnom printed emphasised.

  1.   budu   učitelem  
    I   shall-be   teacher  

  2. to   je   tragedií   tohoto   národa  
    this   is   tragedy   this-Gen   nation-Gen  
    this is the tragedy of this people

Representation of Pnom by incongruent genitive noun


This manner of expression is rare. Anyway, it is necessary to find out whether some Adv is not the case (e.g., in such sentences as bylo to roku 1921 (it happened in the year 1921), which is a time adverbial, Adverbials (and borderline cases)). Pnom is emphasized:

  1. čepice   je   souseda  
    cap   is   neighbour's  

  2. Franta   je   vysokého   vzrůstu  
    Frank   is   high   stature-Gen  
    Frank is of high stature

  3. je   dobré   mysli  
    he-is   good   mind-Gen  
    he is of good cheer

Representation of Pnom by a compound form of adjective


Pnom is emphasized

  1. Lukáš   je   zdravý  
    Lucas   is   well  

  2. jeho   styl   je   básnický  
    his   style   is   poetic  
Representation of Pnom by a nominal form of adjective


Pnom is emphasized

  1. je   velmi   laskav  
    he-is   very   kind  

  2. pacient   je   sláb  
    patient   is   weak  

  3. bude   na   světě   sám  
    he-will-be   in   world   alone  
    he will be alone in the world

If Pnom is verbal, it is not always easy to distinguish passive from state, a problem dealt with in the part Distinguishing state and passive. Neuter “short” adjective forms (platno of use, jasno clear, zřejmo obvious) obtain afun Pnom, provided a pronominal form of dative can be inserted into the sentence. If this is not possible, afun Adv must be assigned. This difference is illustrated by the following examples:

  1. je   (mu)   zřejmo   (Pnom)  
    it-is   (he-Dat)   obvious  
    it is obvious (to him)

  2. je   (jí)   těžko   (Pnom)  
    it-is   (she-Dat)   hard  
    it is hard (for her)

  3. je   (mi)   nesnadno   přijít   (Pnom)  
    it-is   (I-Dat)   difficult   to-come  
    it is difficult (for me) to come

  4. but:

    dnes   je   slunečno (Adv)  
    today   it-is   sunny  
    it is sunny today

Representation of Pnom by an infinitive


In the part Modification of verbal-nominal predicate (modification of verbal-nominal predicate) below, it is pointed out that e.g. the word Sněžka (name of a mountain) depends on the copula je is as its subject, while in the accusative form it is an object depending on the infinitive.

  1. je   vidět   Sněžka  
    it-is   to-see   Sněžka-Nom  
    Sněžka can be seen

  2. je   vidět   Sněžku  
    it-is   to-see   Sněžka-Acc  
    it is possible to see Sněžka

  3. je   cítit   síra  
    it-is   to-smell   sulphur-Nom  
    sulphur can be smelled

  4. je   cítit   síru  
    it-is   to-smell   sulphur-Acc  
    it is possible to smell sulphur

Representation of Pnom by a possesive pronoun


Pnom is emphasized

  1. dárek   byl   jejich  
    gift   was   theirs  

  2. šátek   je   matčin  
    scarf   is   mother's  

Representation of Pnom by a numerical expression


Pnom is emphasized

  1. to   je   moc  
    it   is   much  
    this is too much

  2. věk   byl   14  
    age   was   14  

It holds that a numerical expression obtains the function Pnom only if there is another subject in the sentence. If this is not so, the numerical expression takes over the role of the subject and it can be modified by an attribute (with this problem also the part Genitive in the function of Sb, Obj and in the function of their Atr is concerned.)

  1. je   jich   málo   (Sb)  
    it-is   they-Gen   few  
    there are few of them

  2. je   nás   pět   (Sb)  
    it-is   we-Gen   five  
    there is five of us

Representation of Pnom by a subordinate sentence


Pnom is emphasized

jeho   výklad   je,   že   mají   hrát  
his   interpretation   is   that   they-ought   to-play  

Possible mistaking of Pnom for Adv


The non-verbal part of the predicate can only be expressed by the eight possibilities mentioned above. A prepositional case, adverbs and interjections are regarded as Adv.

Adv are emphasized

  1. lidé   jsou   k   smíchu  
    people   are   to   a-smile  
    people are ridiculous

  2. to   je   k   popukání  
    this   is   to   split  
    this is (enough) to (make you) split (your sides with laughter)

  3. co   to   je   za   bláznovství  
    what   this   is   for   foolishness  
    what for a foolishness is this

  4.   je   na   cestě  
    already   he-is   on   way  
    he is on the way already

  5. býval   bez   skrupulí  
    he-used-to-be   without   scruples  
    he used to be unscrupulous

  6. to   je   jinak  
    this   is   differently  

  7. děti   jsou   vzhůru  
    children   are   awake  

  8. je   pozdě   litovat  
    it-is   late   to-lament  
    it is too late to lament

  9. to   je   mi   fuk  
    it   is   I-Dat   nothing  
    I don't care a damn

Constructions with jako like are not regarded as Pnom, either; they represent cases of comparison having the function of Adv; however, owing to ellipsis, often afun ExD is used. How to treat these constructions can be found in Phrases of comparison with conjunctions jako (as), než (than).

ExD are emphasized

  1. chlapec   je   jako   obrázek  
    boy   is   like   picture  
    the boy is as pretty as a picture

  2. on   je   jako   opařený  
    he   is   like   dumbfounded  

Modification of verbal-nominal predicate


Modification of verbal-nominal predicate complies with rules analogous to those which modify compound predicate (part Modification of a compound predicate). Subject always depends on the copula (ex. (1)). While in the example mentioned above Sněžka is Subject, in the example je vidět Sněžku (it is possible to see Sněžka) (ex. (2)) the word Sněžka is an object of vidět (to see).

The valency complements (Obj as well as obligatory Adv) depend on the element which has this valency (Pnom, as a rule - ex. (3)). Also free adverbials can depend on Pnom, if they tend towards it strongly owing to their meaning. If, however, we do not feel such tendencies (especially with local, time and wide respect determinations) we suspend them under the copula (ex. (4)).


The decision is very complicated especially with the form pro+Acc for. If a noun in dative could be used at the same time, free Adv may prevail (je pro názornost určen všem uživatelům for the sake of intuitiveness it is destined for all users), with Adv dependent on copula; if pro competes with dative, it is rather Obj, dependent on Pnom.

  1. je   vidět   Sněžka  
    it-is   to-see   Sněžka-Nom  
    Sněžka can be seen

  2. je   vidět   Sněžku  
    it-is   to-see   Sněžka-Acc  
    one can see Sněžka

  3. je   spokojen   s   málem  
    he-is   satisfied   with   a-little  
    he can put up with very little

  4. letohrádek   je   letos   rozšířen   o   nové   prostory  
    summer-house   is   this-year   extended   by   new   premises  

Predicate purely nominal in two-member sentences


The purely nominal predicate contains a non-verbal expression only, i.e. with a copula being elided. This can be solved using the function Exd (see Ellipsis ExD, ExD_Co)

  1. šatna   naproti!  
    cloak-room   opposite  

  2. mladost   radost  
    youth   joy  

  3. kouřit   zakázáno  
    to-smoke   forbidden  

  4. nic   platno  
    nothing   doing  

As has been pointed out in the part the structure of verbal-nominal predicate, there are exceptions to this rule with such words as třeba necessary. Such words obtain afun Pred, taking thus over the function of the whole predicate in the tree. In the section on ellipses the part Ellipsis of copula with some verbo-nominal predicates is devoted to this phenomenon.

Distinguishing state and passive


In representing the collocation of být to be and a passive participle, it is necessary to distinguish action, i.e., a real passive form (ex. (1)), from state, i.e. a verbal-nominal predicate (ex. (2)).

  1. Hrad   byl   vystavěn  
    castle   was   built-up  

  2. Hrad   byl   vystavěn  
    castle   was   built-up  

If the event exprfessed by periphrastic passive is conceived as a state resulting from the action and the action meaning is subdued in it, it is difficult to distinguish between the two functions. The difference between an action in passive and an adjective with copula can be recognized from the context only. E.g., in the sentence hrad byl tehdy už vystavěn the castle was already built up at that time the meaning is that of a state, while in the sentence hrad byl vystavěn za Karla IV. the castle was built up under Charles IV action passive is the case.

Also the following facts can help. For the most part, the state is expressed by a perfective verb and the passive participle can be replaced by a compound adjective (in the sentence úkol je v čase promyšleně rozložen the task has been ingeniously distributed in time rozložit distribute is a perfective verb, where the form rozložen can be replaced by the form rozložený, which is an adjective). On the other hand, the action passive is usually expressed by an imperfective verb, its transformation into reflexive passive is possible and it can be completed by an instrumental of the originator of the action (in the sentence obilí je koseno sedlákem corn is mowed by a harvester the originator of the action, harvester, is present, the verb is imperfective, and its form can be transformed into kosí se it gets mown).


  perfective verb possibility of a compound adjective possibility of reflexive passive presence of originator of action
state + + - -
action +/- - + +