Is "The way we are learning English is not good" a clause?


Can I call the following a clause?

The way we are learning English is not good.

Here, what kind of clause is "The way we are learning English"

I think it's a noun clause because it sits before the auxiliary "is" here. Am I right? If I am correct what is "The way" in that clause?

Jahidul Alam Rudro

Posted 2018-06-07T14:03:51.340

Reputation: 149



It is a noun phrase, and the subject of the sentence. It is not a clause, but it contains one.

The noun phrase has a noun "the way" and a relative clause; "we are learning English" is the relative clause, it describes the noun "way". You could also write "The way that we are learning English".

The word "is" is the main verb (not an auxiliary) and "not good" is an adjective and the complement of the subject.

James K

Posted 2018-06-07T14:03:51.340

Reputation: 80 781

The AdjP "not good" is complement of the verb "be", not of the subject, although it does of course refer to the latter. – BillJ – 2018-06-07T14:38:45.777

It's a subject complement that complements the subject of the sentence by describing it. – James K – 2018-06-07T14:48:30.090

No: in full it's called a subjective predicative complement. It's a dependent in the predicate VP, not the NP subject. – BillJ – 2018-06-07T15:39:24.947

@James K Agreed. It is called the subjective predicative complement because it complements the subject. It completes, but does not complement, the verb. – James – 2018-06-07T17:35:07.953

1@James No: it doesn't complement the subject, but simply refers to it, which is why it's called a subjective PC. The crucial point is that it's not an obligatory item in the subject NP, but an obligatory dependent of the verb, and hence a complement of the latter. Further, it qualifies as a complement of the verb because it has to be licensed by a particular type of verb, e.g., “be, seem, become”. In other words, it plays no syntactic role in the subject NP, but does so entirely in the VP. Complement is a syntactic function, not a semantic concept. – BillJ – 2018-06-07T18:05:51.443

@BillJ You certainly know more about grammar than I, so I am not holding myself up as an expert. Every article that I look up on the internet says that it is the subject that is complemented, because the subject is renamed or defined, and the verb is completed as the VP requires is unable to stand by itself. It is quite possible that I am misreading them, in which case my apologies for continuing this discussion. Can you please direct me to any references that say the opposite, as I would like to understand this better. I will add references in the next comment. – James – 2018-06-07T20:08:28.350

@BillJ My apologies for using two comments to complete this message. Here are some of the references I referred to above. ( (

– James – 2018-06-07T20:08:59.197

Arguing about what's officially called a "complement" and what's not is pointless. As @JamesK pointed out, the chunk in question is a complex noun phrase, composed of an antecedent noun phrase the way and a relative clause modifying it. Relative clauses are much easier to talk about than abstract definitions. Though this chunk, to answer the original question, is not a clause, though it contains a clause. – John Lawler – 2018-06-07T21:49:58.420

@James The predicative complement is required to complete the verb phrase, and hence is a complement of the verb. See the tree diagram I have posted, where it is clear that the complement is part of the verb phrase, not the subject. The complement does of course refer to the subject "way" -- it ascribes some property to it (in this case "not good") but it is not part of the subject constituent. – BillJ – 2018-06-08T06:40:14.207

@James Here's a link to UCL's website: link. Click on 'Index' on left. Then click on 'C' at the bottom of the page. Then scroll down and click on 'Complement' and then scroll down to the paragraph commencing "Finally, consider verb phrases in which the Head is a form of the verb be", where it says that the complement is required to complete the meaning of the VP (verb phrase). You'll find it says The Complement is that part of the VP which is required to complete the meaning of the Head. The head is of course the verb.

– BillJ – 2018-06-08T07:35:05.187

@BillJ Thank you for the link and the tree diagram, they were very helpful. I am happy to accept this explanation. However, it would appear that there is widespread misunderstanding about this issue, as several websites I read clearly said that the AP completed the V and complemented the S. It is unfortunate when their is disagreement between apparent expert sites on a matter as fundamental as this. – James – 2018-06-08T15:10:11.933


enter image description here

Here is a simplified tree of the OP's sentence, which clearly shows that syntactically the complement "not good" belongs in the predicate VP, not the subject NP. The complement is required to complete the verb phrase and hence is complement of the verb.


Posted 2018-06-07T14:03:51.340

Reputation: 9 994