English grammar questions, answered by Alan
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I have been stuck for a while trying to wrap my head around prepositional verbs in relation to prepositional phrases.
My question is whether the preposition contained in a prepositional phrase also heads a subsequent prepositional phrase.
I decided on posting this question.
Would we consider the preposition on
here to be part of the verbal phrase decided on
as a head of the prepositional phrase on posting this question
? Is there any way it could be both?
While I am immensely grateful if I could receive a simple answer, any hints of literature that explores/explaines the subject would be greatly appreciated.
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Grammarians vary with regard to this issue, and so you will find different answers depending on which authority you consult.
The traditional view is that 'on' here simply heads a prepositional phrase that postmodifies the intransitive verb 'decide'.
The more contemporary view is that 'decide on' constitutes a transitive VP whose object is the gerund phrase 'posting this question'.
Regarding the latter interpretation, there is general agreement that the critical factor in determining whether a verb + preposition may be considered a phrase is the possibility of passivization. Since e.g. active
The committee decided on that course of action last year.
may acceptably be passivized to
That course of action was decided on by the committee last year.
'decide on' is considered phrasal.
Compare that with a non-phrasal combination, such as 'get in' in
He got in his car and drove it away.
which may not be acceptably transformed into
*His car was got into and driven away.
whereby 'get in' clearly fails the phrasal classification.
I trust these notes may be of some help!