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    Verbals (non-finite forms) as verbs.

    Part One

    A few threads in the Ask a Teacher forum have been prolonged/sidetracked by a discussion between MikeNewYork and me on whether or not ‘verbals’ (as Mike terms them) or ‘non-finite verbs’ (as I call) them are verbs. I have created this thread in the hope that we will not prolong/sidetrack future threads. If the subject is mentioned in such threads, we can simply provide a link to this thread. Any member is, of course, welcome to join this thread.

    The grammarians I have quoted below (in chronological order of publication) all consider at least some non-finite forms to be verbs, or at least as much forms of verbs as the 3rd person singular of the present tense. None of them uses the label ‘verbals’ for such forms.

    Hornby, A S (1954.1) A Guide to Patterns and Usage in English, Oxford: OUP:

    Verbs are either non-finites or finites. The non-finites are the infinitives, present and perfect, the participles, present and past, and the gerund (also called the verbal noun).The finites are those parts of the verb other than the non-finites.

    Zandvoort R W and Van Ek, JA (1966.1-2 ) A Handbook of English Grammar, 4th edn, London: Longman:

    An English verb normally has the following forms:

    a. the stem: play call, wait, pass;
    b. the stem + ing: playing, calling, waiting, passing;
    c. the stem + sibilant suffix: plays, calls, waits, passes; [...]
    d. the stem + dental suffix: played, called, waited, passed. [...]

    The stem of the English verb is used in the following functions:

    1. INFINITIVE, often preceded by to. [...]

    The stem + ing is used in the following functions:

    1. GERUND

    The stem + sibilant suffix is used as THIRD PERSON SINGULAR of the present tense. [...]
    The stem + dental suffix is used in the following functions:


    Cristophersen, Paul and Sandved, Arthur O (1969.51), An Advanced English Grammar, Basingstoke: Macmillan:

    The verbal form with {D1} [= the past tense morpheme. Piscean] is called the ‘past tense’. [...]
    The verbal form with {D2} [= the past participle morpheme. P] is called the ‘past participle’.

    Schibsbye, Knud, (1970.6-8) A modern English Grammar 2nd edn, , London: OUP:

    The English form normally has four forms:

    I. The basic form: like, love, judge, add.
    Function: (a) infinitive, (b) present indicative with the exception of the 3td pers. sing., (c). imperative, (d) subjunctive. [...]
    II. The basic form + -s: likes, loves, judges, adds.
    Function: £rd pers. song. pres. ind.
    III. The basic form + (e)d: liked, loved, judged, added. [...]
    Function: preterite and past participle.
    IV. The basic form +ing: liking, loving, judging, adding.
    Function: present participle and gerund.

    Palmer, F R (1974.13-14), The English Verb, London: Longman:

    Subsumed under the lexeme TAKe are the forms take, takes, took, taking and taken.

    These must be classified in terms of finite and non-finite forms. The first form of the verb phrase of a main clause is always finite; it follows that if there is one form only, it will be finite: Hence:

    I take coffee.
    He takes coffee.
    I/He took coffee.
    *I/He taking coffee.
    *I/He taken coffee.

    The other forms of the verb phrase are all non-finite, as in:

    He has taken coffee.
    He was taking coffee.
    He wants to take coffee.

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    Re: Verbals (non-finite forms) as verbs.

    Part Two

    Close, R A (1975.69-87 ), A reference grammar for students of English, London: Longman:

    [...] the non-finite parts of the verb [...]:

    The bare infinitive [...]
    The infinitive with to
    The -ing participle and gerund
    The -ed participle

    Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; and Svartik, Jan (1985.96-97), A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Harlow: Longman:

    Regular full verbs eg CALL, have four morphological forms. Irregular full verbs vary in this respect; a verb like SPEAK has five, whereas CUT has only three (note, however, that the primary verb BE has as many as eight forms.

    1. BASE FORM - call, want, speak, cut, win
    2. -S FORM - calls, wants, speaks, cuts, wins
    3. -ING FORM - calling, wanting, speaking, cutting, winning
    4. PAST FORM - called, wanted, spoke, cut, won
    5. -ED PARTICIPLE - called, wanted, spoke, cut, won.

    These verb forms have different functions in finite and non-finite verb phrases. On this basis, the -s form and the past form are called FINITE, whereas the -ing participle and the -ed participle are called NONFINITE.

    The BASE FORM [...] occurs as a NONFINITE form in
    (i) the bare infinitive: He may call tonight.
    (ii) The to-infinitive: We want her to call.

    Greenbaum, Sidney in McArthur Tom (ed) (1992.702), The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford: OUP:

    NON-FINITE VERB, also non-finite verb. A form of the verb that does not display a distinction in tense, in contrast with finite verb. A non-finite verb is either an infinitive or a participle.

    Chalker, Sylvia and Weiner,Edmund (1993.262), The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, 2nd edn, Oxford, OUP:

    A non-finite clause is a clause whose verb is non-finite ( an infinitive, an -ing participle, or an -en participle.

    Aarts , Jan and Aarts, Floor, A corpus-based study in verb complementation in Aarts, Bas and Meyer, Charles F (1995), The verb in contemporary English (1995.161-2), Cambridge: CUP:

    Forms of the verb find:

    Finite forms
    Present tense
    Past tense

    Non-finite forms
    Bare infinitive
    To- infinitive

    Greenbaum, Sidney (1995.117) The Oxford English Grammar, Oxford: OUP:

    Verbs have five form-types. [...]

    1. base - prepare, make, put, write
    2. -s - prepares, makes, puts, writes
    3. -ing participle - preparing, making, putting, writing
    4. past - prepared, made, put, written.

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    Re: Verbals (non-finite forms) as verbs.

    Part Three

    Yule, George (1998.212) Explaining English Grammar, Oxford: OUP:

    As illustration, the complements (to see, to get, walked) in the examples in [1] have the base form of the verb and are described as INFINITIVES. The complements(walking, leaving, being) in the examples in [2] have the participle form of the verb and are described as GERUNDS


    1. He wanted to see her again.
    2. She told him to get lost.
    3. c. He watched her walk away.


    1. She continued walking.
    2. b. He couldn’r bear her leaving him.
    3. c She resented his being such a wimp.

    The infinitives and gerunds in [1] and [2] are described as NON_FINITE FORMS [...].

    Parrott, Martin (2000.99,143), Grammar for English Language Teachers, Cambridge: CUP:

    We refer to verbs as infinitives when they are not part of the tense of the verb, and they have no subject:

    I saw him cross the road. I didn’t want him to leave.

    The following are -ing forms of the verb: being ,cutting, doing, leaving. [...]

    Regular verbs have identical past tense and past participle forms.[...]

    For most practical purposes we consider -ing forms of the verb as one grammatical class. However, they are sometimes considered as two separate class (different in function but not in form): gerunds and present participle.

    Huddleston, Rodney and Pullum, Geoffrey er al (2002.74), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge: CUP:

    We begin with a brief listing of the inflectional categories of verbs [...]

    ,,, virtually all lexical verbs have a paradigm with six forms [...,}

    preterite - took wanted, hit
    present tense 3rd sg - takes wants hits
    present tense plain - take, want, hit


    plain form - take, want, hit
    gerund-participle - taking, wanting, hitting.
    Past participle - took, wanted, hit.

    Declerk, Renaat et al (2006.780,787,803) The Grammar of th English Verb Phrase. Volume 1: The Grammar of the English Tense System
    , Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter:

    Gerund: non-finite verb form
    Infinitival clause (or infinitive clause): non-finite clause whose verb form is an infinitive.
    Past participle: nonfinite verb form
    Present participle: nonfinite (and therefore non-tensed) verb form

    Aarts, Bas (2011.21), Oxford Modern English Grammar, Oxford: OUP:

    [...] all the forms for English verbs [...]:

    Present Tense 3rd ps. sing form
    Plain present form
    Past tense form

    -ing Participle
    -ed Participle
    Plain form

    The non-tensed plain form of the verb is used in infinitive, subjunctive and imperative clause.

    I shall be adding more quotes later. At present I have confined myself to quotes from some of the books (a) published after the momentous year of my birth and (b) that I actually have copies of on my bookshelves.. I have not quoted any websites., and will not do so unless I am sure who the people writing on such websites are.

    In order not to get side-tracked in this thread, I should add that I consider the gerund to be a verb form, but concede that some of the writers I have quoted do not. If anybody is interested in discussing this, we can start a separate thread specifically for gerunds.

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