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Thread: non-finite verb

  1. #1
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    non-finite verb

    usingenglish.com defines `non-finite verb' as :

    The non-finite forms of a verb have no tense, person or singular plural. The infinitive and present and past participles are the non-finite parts of a verb.


    This definition explains `present participle' and `past participle' are non-finite verbs.

    I have made this book.
    [we know here `made' is past participle.]

    So can I say here `made' is non-finite verb?

    Similarly,
    I am playing football. [Here football is `present participle']
    So, can I say `playing' is non-finite verb?

    Please help me on this.

  2. #2
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    Re: non-finite verb

    Quote Originally Posted by user_gary View Post
    I have made this book.
    [we know here `made' is past participle.]

    So can I say here `made' is non-finite verb?
    If it's not inflected, it's non-finite in form. Consider these inflected (i.e., finite) verbs:

    She has made this book.
    Both girls have made this book.

    A finite verb changes its form in person and number. By the way, it's called "finite" because it's bound or limited to a given position in the sentence. Non-finite verbs, on the other hand, are more or less free and can occur in more than one position. For example, our participle made can occur, say, as part of a verb or as an adjective modifying a noun. Moreover, it doesn't change form:

    She has made this book.
    Both girls have made this book.
    He is a made man. <adjective>

    Quote Originally Posted by user_gary
    I am playing football. [Here football is `present participle']
    So, can I say `playing' is non-finite verb?
    Yes, but actually, it's non-finite in form, meaning it's not the main verb: it doesn't inflect for tense, person, and number.

    All the best.

  3. #3
    Philly is offline Senior Member
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    Re: non-finite verb

    Hi Casiopea

    I understand everything you're saying except the last bit ("it's non-finite in form, meaning it's not the main verb") -- which I understood to be a reference to the word 'playing' in 'am playing'. Does that mean that you consider 'am' to be the "main verb" in 'am playing'?

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    Re: non-finite verb

    Quote Originally Posted by Philly View Post
    Does that mean that you consider 'am' to be the "main verb" in 'am playing'?
    Yes and no. The phrase main verb can be interpreted in two ways,

    i) Grammatical term. The present participle playing is formed by adding -ing to the main verb; e.g., play + ing.

    ii) Principal. The auxiliary verb am agrees with the subject in person and number, which makes it the main, or rather, principal verb in terms of tense and inflection.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    All the best.

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    Re: non-finite verb

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Yes and no. The phrase main verb can be interpreted in two ways,

    i) Grammatical term. The present participle playing is formed by adding -ing to the main verb; e.g., play + ing.

    ii) Principal. The auxiliary verb am agrees with the subject in person and number, which makes it the main, or rather, principal verb in terms of tense and inflection.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    All the best.
    Hi,

    It still confuses me a bit, but I think I understand what you're saying. Mind if try to rephrase it and see if I'm right?

    user_gary asked whether in "I am playing football," "playing" is a non-finite verb.

    I read your reply as follows:

    1. In "I am playing football," "playing" is not a "non-finite verb", it's a "non-finite verb form".

    2. "Playing" is not inflected itself (i.e. non-finite in form); instead the auxiliary verb "to be" takes that job.

    3. So, technically, while the sentence "I am playing football," does contain a "non-finite verb form", it does not a contain a "non-finite verb", because the main verb, "to play", is inflected according to the rules of the English language for the present continuous tense: with the auxilary verb "to be".

    There are two grammatical points of confusion here:

    A) Morphology: the main-verb in this sentence, in it's uninflected form, is "to play". Since "playing" is a morphological alteration of the infinitive form (compare terminology: in-finit-ive vs. non-finit-e), people usually call "playing" the main verb.

    B) Syntax: This follows from the above. "Playing" is not the complete verb in the sentence "I am playing football"; "am playing" is. In English certain tense/aspect/voice/mood constructions are formed using an "auxilary verb + participle construction" (periphrastic constructions). I'm not aware of a word for a "complete verb" that is inflected periphrastically rather than morphologically. Internally, "am" is usually called the "auxilary/helping word", and "playing" the main verb. This is relational terminology that places semantics over syntactic function. If you're talking about inflection, however, it's quite reasonable to reverse the usage, since the inflection is taken care of by "am". Or, differently put, what the verb means is secondary, if you're trying to determine what "part-verb" in the "tense construction" is (non-)finite in form.

    In summary: I think the point is that, in general, the term "non-finite verb" is reserved for those cases where a clause contains only "non-finite verb forms" - i.e. a non-finite clause:

    "Having eaten breakfast, I'm no longer hungry."

    non-finite verb forms: 2 (having, eaten)
    finite verb forms: 1 ('m)

    non-finite verbs: 1 (having eaten)
    finite verbs: 1 ('m)

    main verbs: 2 (eaten, 'm)
    auxilary verbs: 1 (having)

    (lexical) main verbs: 2 (eat [realised by non-finite "having eaten"], be [realised as 'm])

    So, am I on the right track?

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    Re: non-finite verb

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    So, am I on the right track?
    It's definitely a topic that should generate a meaty discussion. Let's see what others have to say on the matter. By the way, to make things just a tad more interesting or, depending on how you look at it, a tad more complex, is playing is a present continuous verb and it functions as the main verb of this sentence:

    Ex: Max is playing the piano that was sent to us from Germany.

    All the best.

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    Re: non-finite verb

    Is this mean `non-finite form' and `non-finite verb' different?

    I thought both are same.

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    Re: non-finite verb

    Quote Originally Posted by user_gary View Post
    Is this mean `non-finite form' and `non-finite verb' different?

    I thought both are same.
    There's no easy answer to this one. It depends how people look at grammar, and how they count verbs.

    How many verbs are in this sentence:

    I have been eating cake all morning.

    One could argue: 1 verb ("eat" put in the present perfect progressive tense).

    Or one could argue: 3 verbs (two auxilary verbs and a main verb)

    Neither is wrong; neither is right. The underlying definition of the word "verb" is different in both cases. Since English often expresses tense/aspect with extra verbs, it's quite possible to collect all auxillaries together and call it "one verb".

    This is an issue that divides linguists. For example, there are people that argue that English has no future tense, while others disagree, viewing "will" as a future marker.

    A similar problem exists with compounds: some people count "taxi driver" as one noun (a compound noun), while others count it as two nouns (or one adjective and one noun).

    Different ways of looking at language yield different ways of using terminology. How you talk about something depends most on who you talk with.

    See, for example, how usingenglish uses "non-finite" in the section you quote: "The infinitive and present and past participles are the non-finite parts of a verb."

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