- Non-finite verb
In linguistics, a non-finite verb (or a verbal) is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person. As a result, a non-finite verb cannot serve as a predicate and can be used in an independent clause only when combined with an auxiliary verb (e.g., "He can write" but not "He to write"). Rather, it can be said to be the head of a non-finite clause. As such, a non-finite verb is the direct opposite of a finite verb.
By some accounts, a non-finite verb acts simultaneously as a verb and as another part of speech (e.g., gerunds combined with articles or the possessive case); it can take adverbs and certain kinds of verb arguments, producing a verbal phrase (i.e., non-finite clause), and this phrase then plays a different role — usually noun, adjective, or adverb — in a greater clause. This is the reason for using the term verbal; non-finite verbs have traditionally been classified as verbal nouns, verbal adjectives, or verbal adverbs.
English has three kinds of verbals:
- participles, which include past and present participles and function as adjectives (e.g. burnt log, a betting man);
- gerunds, which function as nouns and can be used with or without an article (the Running of the Bulls, "studying" is an academically beneficial practice)
- infinitives, which have noun-like (the question is to be or not to be), adjective-like (work to do), and adverb-like functions (she came over to talk). If in order can precede the infinitive ("she came over in order to talk"), then it must be acting as an adverb. Infinitives are often preceded by 'to'; but not necessarily.
Each of these kinds of verbals is also used in various common constructs; for example, the past participle is used in forming the perfect (to have done).
Some languages, especially Native American languages, do not have any non-finite verbs. Where most European or Asian languages use non-finite verbs, they use either ordinary verb forms or special constructions such as nominalizations.
A participle is a verbal adjective that describes a noun as being a participant in the action of the verb. English has two kinds of participles: a present participle, also called an imperfect participle, which ends in -ing and which ordinarily describes the agent of an action, and a past participle, also called a perfect participle, which typically ends in -ed (but can also end in -en, -t, or none of these), and which ordinarily describes the patient of an action.
The following sentences contain participles:
- The talking children angered the teacher. (Here talking modifies children.)
- Annoyed, Rita ate dinner by herself in the bedroom. (Here annoyed modifies Rita.)
- Gazing at the picture, she recalled the house where she was born. (Here gazing at the picture modifies she.)
A relative clause in the active or passive voice can be reduced to a phrase known as a reduced adjective clause by utilizing a present or past participle. The reduced adjective clause can be formed even if the present participle is not used as a predicate in the clause.
- The students who were fidgeting in their seats were anxious about the test.
- The students who fidgeted in their seats were anxious about the test.
- The students fidgeting in their seats were anxious about the test.
The use of commas can indicate a restrictive or nonrestrictive sense.
- The students fidgeting in their seats were anxious about the test. (Only those students who were fidgeting were anxious. It is implied that other students were not fidgeting and, thus, not anxious.)
- The students, fidgeting in their seats, were anxious about the test. (All the students in the group being considered were both fidgeting and anxious.)
A gerund is a verbal noun that refers to the action of the verb. In English, a gerund has the same form as a present participle (see above), ending in -ing:
- Fencing is good exercise. (Here fencing is the subject of is.)
- Leroy betrayed his team by charging. (Here charging is the object of by.)
A gerund phrase is a phrase consisting of a gerund and any adverbials and/or arguments; the gerund is the head of such a phrase:
- My evening routine involves jogging slowly around the block. (Here jogging slowly around the block is the direct object of involves.)
- To succeed takes courage, foresight, and luck. (Here to succeed is the subject of takes.)
- I don't have time to waste.
- Carol was asked to speak. (Here to speak is the object of asked, comparable to Carol was asked a question.)
- Do not stop to chat.
An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive and any related words.
- Paul wanted to learn silk screening. (The infinitive phrase to learn silk screening is the object of wanted.)
Other kinds of non-finite verbs
Lexical categories and their features Noun VerbVerb formsVerb types
Accusative · Ambitransitive · Andative/Venitive · Anticausative · Autocausative · Auxiliary · Captative · Catenative · Compound · Copular · Defective · Denominal · Deponent · Ditransitive · Dynamic · ECM · Ergative · Frequentative · Impersonal · Inchoative · Intransitive · Irregular · Lexical · Light · Modal · Monotransitive · Negative · Performative · Phrasal · Predicative · Preterite-present · Reflexive · Regular · Separable · Stative · Stretched · Strong · Transitive · Unaccusative · Unergative · Weak
Adjective Adverb Pronoun Preposition
Inflected · Casally modulated
Conjunction Determiner Classifier Particle Complementizer Other
- Dodds, Jack (2006). The Ready Reference Handbook, 4th Edition. Pearson Education, Inc.. ISBN 0-321-33069-2
- Rozakis, Laurie (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition. Alpha. ISBN 1-59257-115-8
- Owl Online Writing Lab: Verbals: Gerunds, Participles, and Infinitives
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