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Why do we call it “Predicate nominative”

While this is normally a grammar question, I cannot find why we use the language “predicate nominative” to name parts of a sentence. On the surface it connotes nothing. A search of my grammar books, the unabridged dictionary, the OED and an on-line search reveal nothing about the origin of this usage. Also, do we know what grammarian first applied this taxomony?

“Nominative” in Latin means “naming”. Do we mean that the part of the sentence with this name is based on, “predicated on”, the subject of the sentence? That is, is the noun “predicate” in this usage related to the verb “predicate”?

I have always thought this an unfortunate taxomy, as it makes language learning doubly difficult -- first the language, and then these arcane names to talk about it. This after having studied three European languages plus my own.

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One problem with English grammatical terminology is that too much of it represents usage more applicable to Classical Latin.

Many English "grammar concepts" have been hammered out artificially from Latin models.

JJMBallantyne December 30, 2006 @ 6:47PM

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wat EXACTLY does "predicat nominative" mean??? it's REALLY hard to understand. can u please explain it to me as if i have 12-years-old(because i am)?

amaria4 May 8, 2007 @ 5:05PM

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With "verbs of being" what would usually be the "object" of the verb (and therefore be in Objective case) should be expressed in the nominative case for the reason explained in other posts. That's why "It is I." is preferred over "It's me!", even though this distinction seems to have all but disappeared in current usage.

IMHO the terminology developed for Classical Latin is wonderful for its applicability to concepts in nearly every language, not just the Romance languages!

patrickharman June 13, 2007 @ 1:08PM

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I did not even know there was such a thing as Predicate Nominative until I was asked this question, 'Do you happen to know what time it is?'

How is the 'it' here as the Predicate Nominative give more information or describes the subject i.e time?

shamn78 December 5, 2007 @ 3:42AM

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The "it" in your sentence ("Do you happen to know what time it is?") is not a predicate nominative. It is a relative pronoun in an interrogative clause. You could say that it is a predicate nominative of the interrogative clause alone, but it is not the predicate nominative of this sentence, since the interrogative clause functions altogether as an object of the main verb. Since "You" is the subject of the whole sentence, the predicate nominative must refer back to "you."

A clear example of a predicate nominative would be something like this:

"Mr. More never sacrificed his principles, and died a happy man."

Here, "a happy man" clearly refers back to "Mr. More," the subject, even though it occurs in the predicate of the sentence, after the main verbs ("sacrificed" and "died"). If this sentence were in Latin, "Mr. More" and "a happy man" would both be in the nominative, i.e., the grammatical case that indicates the subject. This predicate nominative implies a linking verb like "is" or "became" or "was made," and, as is the beauty of language, the predicate nominative here takes on an almost adverbial quality. That is, this predicate nominative describes *how* Mr. More died, simply by stating what Mr. More was at the time he died. You could unpack the sentence like this:

"Mr. More never sacrificed his principles, and he died, and he was then a happy man."

And we know, just from context and tone, as native English speakers, what is meant by all this. Namely: "Mr. More never sacrificed his principles, and he died happily because of this."

So, the predicate nominative brings up the subject again, in the predicate of the sentence. It often does this with an adverbial or adjectival quality, describing the main verb (and thus the whole predicate) by the qualities of the predicate nominative. In fact, sometimes this shows up in Greek and Latin grammar as a "predicate adjective!"

And yes, a very simple example would be: "That animal is a cow." "Cow" is a predicate nominative, but this example is so simple and devoid of illustrative possibilities, that many students can't understand a predicate adjective if only an example like this is used.

aurelio September 5, 2011 @ 9:34AM

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I dont get the whole idea of predicate nomitive. Can you explain it to me? Im 12 but have the knowlegde of a 4 year old when it comes to latin. please help me!

taytay October 11, 2011 @ 5:51PM

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