This question has been sent in by Apple:

Please take a look at this sentence I found in the newspaper.

"The attack appeared aimed at weakening Hamas to prevent it from claiming victory."

What is the function of "aimed"?

Is it a participle as a complement? (I'm not sure if this term even exists)

If I'm even close, can this "aimed" be replaced with "aiming" meaning the same?

Last edited {1}
Original Post
Let me try:

I think aimed in this particular sentence functions as the main verb (i.e. finite verb) of the sentence. The form of aimed here is simply the past tense of to aim (not a past participle). Since it is a finite verb, it won't be able to be replaced with aiming, which is a non-finite form.
My guesses:

I think the main verb is "appeared", and "aimed" is a past participle. We could also say, "The attack appeared/seemed (to be) aimed at weakening...".

I´m a bit confused about the possibility of using "aiming" . It sounds very strange and unlikely, unless the sentence includes "to be". So maybe we could say, "The attack appeared to be aiming at weakening..." (I think using the infinitive is also possible after the verb "aim" - "The attack appeared to be aiming to weaken..." - but then there´s the repetition of "to" which doesn´t sound good.

Another possibility might be: "It appears the attack aimed / was aimed / was aiming to weaken / at weakening". I think this is equivalent to using the structure "appear/seem to have done" - "The attack appears to have aimed at weakening / to weaken". We might also be able to use the structure "appear/seem to have been doing" - "The attack appears to have been aimed/aiming at weakening / to weaken".

Or we could keep the initial part in the past and follow with a simpler structure: "It appeared the attack aimed / was aimed / was aiming at weakening / to weaken"; "The attack appeared to aim / to be aimed / to be aiming at weakening / to weaken"

Anyway, I´m not really sure!

I don't think that appeared is a main verb here. Instead, it is a past participle modifying The attack.

From the original sentence:

The attack appeared aimed at weakening Hamas to prevent it from claiming victory.

if I take appeared out, it'll read:

The attack aimed at weakening Hamas to prevent it from claiming victory.

The sentence still makes sense.

However, if I take aimed at out, it'll read:

The attack appeared weakening Hamas to prevent it from claiming victory.

The sentence now looks like a phrase to me.
Last edited {1}
Apple's intuitions are very sharp. The main verb is "appeared," and the past participle "aimed" is part of a passive stative, "to be aimed at," with the infinitive "to be" (or "to have been" to indicate the perfect aspect) ellipted (omitted).

The expression "to be aimed at" takes a noun or nominal object; the gerund "weakening" is the noun form of the verb "to weaken." Here are a few examples from Google:

Full infinitive:

The two-stage reduction appeared to be aimed at dissuading US investment funds from selling out of the market, said Societe Generale analyst Frederic Lasserre

--American officials described the bombings as terrorist acts, and said that they appeared to have been aimed at the United States.

--While the statement was couched in even-handed terms, it appeared aimed at Israel's decision to build new homes for Jews in disputed east Jerusalem.

--Bush's speech appeared aimed at complaints in the Arab world that the United States has long tolerated corrupt, undemocratic regimes in return for stability

--Mr. Bush's remarks, however, appeared aimed at lowering expectations of US influence and shifting the responsibility for curbing the violence on to Washington's Arab allies.

--Sharon's move appeared aimed at showing Washington he is serious about moving ahead with a disengagement strategy to remove some isolated settlements...

As Apple says, the only way to use the present participle "aiming" after the verb "appeared" would be to use the full form

"The attack appeared TO BE/TO HAVE BEEN aiming at weakening Hamas...."

In this case it is not a passive stative at all; it puts the noun "attack" in the role of the "actor," i.e. it treats the attack as if it were actively doing the aiming itself. This form is not incorrect but is not as natural as "[to be/to have been] aimed at."

The phrase "aimed at" could be replaced by "directed toward":

The attack appeared directed toward weakening Hamas to prevent it from claiming victory

Again, in this construction there is an ellipsis of the infinitive "to be" or, to indicate the perfect aspect, "to have been." With the ellipsis, the aspectual element is lost.

Marilyn Martin
I have to correct an omission in my previous posting. Apple asks whether "aimed at" is a complement or something else. I failed to identify the grammatical role of "aimed at." It's the (reduced) complement of the main verb "appeared." With the full infinitive "to be" it would be an infinitive complement; with the infinitive ellipted, as in the sentence, it's still a complement. In the sentence as a whole it's the subject complement of "attack."

Another point: try changing the tense of the main verb to the present, "appears," and the role of "aimed at" as a complement and not the main verb becomes clear.

Marilyn Martin

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.