Sentence Structure

I am having an argument about diagramming this following sentence. Please help. “What kind of man would I be?”

That is a very interesting sentence and to me the answer is not obvious. I assume that you are really asking what is the subject of the sentence, since the rest of it is routine. It can’t be “man” because that is the object of a preposition. But it also can’t be “kind”; contrast these two sentences:

What kind of man shoots first?
What kind of men shoot first?

The only thing that seems to be left is to say that the subject is a compound noun “kind of man” (“kind of men” for the second one) thqt takes its number from the object of “of”, but I would be happy to see a better analysis.

I think the subject is "I’. The phrase “What kind of man” is the object of the main verb “would be”. In the sentence, “Whom would I see?”, “Whom” is the object, and “I” is the subject, and that sentence has the same structure except the object is a single word rather than a 4-word phrase.

I’m two minutes late; you nailed it.

I disagree. Go back and look at the two sentences I gave. No “I” to be the subject. The “I” in the original is clearly a predicate nominative.

I concur. If you rephrase the sentence as “I would be what kind of man?” the subject is obvious.

The subject is “What.” It’s being used as an interrogative pronoun. “Kind of man” modifies “what.” “Would be” is the verb, and “I” is the complement.

The verb “to be” has complements, not direct objects. The function is slightly different, and it usually takes the subject pronoun (e.g., “It is he”).

What is not the subject. The underlying structure of the sentence is, as noted above, I would be what kind of man? That would make I the subject and be the verb. Would, of course, is an auxiliary; kind is the complement (sorry about the unintentional pun); of man is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adjective; and man is the object of the preposition. What is an interrogative used as an adjective (see definition 18) modifying the noun kind. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s also a pun.)

If the OP is not asking for help with either homework or a test question, I’ll work on diagramming it with all the V, V-bar, NP, NP-bar, etc. stuff I had to learn in Linguistics.

The “I’s” have it. The subject is “I.” Monty has parsed it to a tee.

I started working on the X-bar schema for it, even pulled out the linguistics textbook, but got lost. I’d be very interested in seeing your results; it seems like it would/could use the t movement, but it’s been so long since I diagrammed in X-bar I can’t recall. I still do okay with simple sentences, but CPs have me beat.

The "I"s may be in a majority, but explanations are not chosen by majority vote. Not one of them has explained my sentences that lack an “I” and have no noun in the predicate.

After some thought, I would explain the sentence by treating “kind of” as a kind of adjective, not otherwise decomposable, so that the sentence has the same structure as
What purple man would I be… I am still open to a convincing alternate explanation.

The fact that in English there is no agreement between the modal “would” and its subject obscures the answer. If we remove the modal, the “be” appears in finite form and agrees with its subject. Which of the following would you prefer?
[li]What kind of man am I?[/li][li]What kind of man is I?[/li][/ul]
Of course this kind of reasonining is somewhat problematic because its assumes that this reformulation doesn’t change the answer, but if you choose the first one then I don’t see how you can reconcile this with any subject except “I”.

Your sentences without ‘I’ are also without the verb ‘to be’ (or the modal verb ‘would’) and are thus not really parallel.

I think at this point it’s very clear I is the subject of “What kind of man would I be.” Posters have show several proofs of this: (1) eliminate the modal and replace the verb with an indicative form of to be; the only proper choice to fill in the blank on “What kind of man ____ I?” is am.

Hari Seldon’s sentences don’t mimic the construction because kind is clearly the subject in his sentences:

What kind of man shoots first?
What kind of men shoot first?

change this to “What kind of man am I shooting?” and you’ve got a parallel construction to the OP; in this case changing man to men does not change the form of the verb, so “kind of man/kind of men” cannot be the subject.

However, Hari Seldon’s sentences do demostrate an interesting characteristic of the noun kind. This, along with type, are the only (?) nouns of classification that routinely apply to a singular or a plural group. Change kind to class or category–nouns which usually describe only plural collections–and “class of man” just doesn’t sound right (unless you assume “man” is collective for “mankind”).

I   |    be       |        kind
          \_ would          \_what \of