In linguistics, a compound verb or complex predicate is a multi-word compound that acts as a single verb. One component of the compound is a light verb or vector, which carries any inflections, indicating tense, mood, or aspect, but provides only fine shades of meaning. The other, "primary", component is a verb or noun which carries most of the semantics of the compound, and determines its arguments. It is usually in either base or conjunctive participial form.
A compound verb is also called a "complex predicate" because the semantics, as formally modeled by a predicate, is determined by the primary verb, though both verbs appear in the surface form. Whether Noun+Verb (N+V) compounds are considered to be "compound verbs" is a matter of naming convention. Generally, the term complex predicate usually includes N+V compounds, whereas the term compound verb is usually reserved for V+V compounds. However, several authors also refer to N+V compounds as compound verbs.
Compound verbs are to be distinguished from serial verbs which typically signify a sequence of actions, and in which the verbs are relatively equal in semantic and grammatical weight.
Though V+V compound verbs are rare in English, one may illustrate the form with the example "start reading". In some interpretations, one may consider "start" as a light verb, which carries markers like tense. However, the main part of the meaning, as well as the arguments of "started reading", i.e. answers to questions such as who? (agent), or what was it that he "started reading" (object) are determined by the second, primary verb, "read". Note that "start" also modifies the meaning or the semantics, by focusing on the early part of the "reading". Also note that "start" carries plural/tense markers (they start|he starts reading), whereas "reading" appears in this fixed form, and does not change with tense, number, gender etc.
Whether gerundive forms like "start reading" are compound verbs is controversial in English; many linguists prefer to treat "reading" as a nominal in its gerundive form. However, the compound verb treatment may have some advantages, particularly when it comes to semantic analysis. For example, in X starts reading Y, the question what did X start is less revealing than what did x "start reading".
English has many examples of N+V compound predicates: see stretched verb.
Sometimes examples from English cited for compound verbs turn out to be serial verbs, e.g.: What did you go and do that for?; or your business might just up and leave.
For example, Hindi निकल गया nikal gayā, lit. "exit went", means 'went out', while निकल पड़ा nikal paRā, lit. "exit fell", means 'departed' or 'was blurted out'. In these examples निकल nikal is the primary verb, and गया gayā and पड़ा paRā are the light verbs.
In the long run, it has been suggested that LVs that are particularly frequent, may become grammaticalized, so that they may now occur systematically with other verbal constituents, so that they become an auxiliary verb (e.g. the English verb "be", as in "I am eating", or "had" in "they had finished"), or, after sound change, even a clitic (a shortened verb, as in "I'm"). In particular, some verb inflections (e.g. Latin future tense inflections) are thought to have arisen in this manner.
Ersetzen und Entsuhnen: Das mittelhethitische Ersatzritual fur den Grosskonig Tuthalija (CTH *448.4) und verwandte Texte.(Book Review)
Jan 01, 2003; By PIOTR TARACHA. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, vol. 5. Leiden: BRILL, 2000. Pp. xxiii + 307. $86. In this volume...