Talk:Nonfinite verb

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Non-finite verb merge[edit]

  • Oppose - If anything, Non-finite verb should be merged with verb, not verbal. However, due to the extensive "Verb types" category, I'd say we're better off leaving these individual verb pages in place, and expanding them where possible. --W0lfie 15:43, 12 July 2006 (UTC) On second glance, I see where this suggestion is coming from. They certainly appear to be describing the same thing, and the Verbal article seems a little bit more informative. Can somebody with a better grasp on English help out?  :-) Also, should it be included in the "Verb types" category or not? --W0lfie 15:52, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

Hi, sorry, I put the merge notices there, and should have started the discussion. "Non-finite verb" and "verbal" are really the same thing. My understanding is that "verbal" is an older term, and more commonly used by e.g. English teachers, whereas "non-finite verb" is a newer one, and more commonly used by linguists. "Non-finite verb" is in some measure the better article title, seeing as it's the technical term that linguists use, but "verbal" is the term more people know it by, and I think it also gives a clearer way of looking at it. I'd really be okay with either article title, but I think it's important that the articles be merged. Ruakh 16:30, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

  • sounds reasonable to me. but i'll bet somebody will want a source to cite (like a grammar book or something)  :-) --W0lfie 19:36, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
  • why not? I looked it up and it seems fine I looked it up and they both seem the same.

Posted by Kyleisaninja

  I think there is also another word for naming the non-finite fomrs of the verbs:VERBIDS.Its called so in many theoretical grammar books,especially in books written by Bloch,Khaimovich and Rogovskaya,O.Jesperson and others.   —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:46, 14 April 2009 (UTC) 

It seems to me that if "finite verb" is listed as a verb type, then "non-finite verb" should be, too. And personally I have never come across the term "verbal", and at first I was hoping it would mean something stronger than just "non-finite verb", but apparently it doesn't. So I would suggest renaming this article "Non-finite verb" (possibly merging info from the existing stub) and redirecting those older visitors who search for "Verbal". CapnPrep 01:13, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Points for discussion[edit]

  • The definitions for finite and non-finite verbs are inadequate (unsurprisingly, because there probably are no adequate definitions):
    1. There are non-finite verbs that inflect for gender, number, person, tense, and aspect (and plenty of finite verbs that show no inflection).
    2. There are non-finite verbs that combine with a subject.
    3. A non-finite verb can head an independent clause (just not a finite clause).
  • The inventory "participles" – "gerunds" – "infinitives" confuses form and function ("gerund" is one special function of a particular participial form). English (I believe) has three non-finite verb forms: present and past/passive participles, base form (infinitive/imperative). This should probably be the top-level structure.

CapnPrep 20:09, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

It seems like the very phrase "non-finite verb forms" confuses form and function; for example, an English verb's base form has both finite functions (e.g., as an imperative) and non-finite functions (e.g., in infinitival clauses). If we distinguish types that differ either in form or in function, I guess English has five non-finite verb types: gerunds, past/passive/perfect participles, present/active/imperfect participles, infinitives/bare infinitives, and infinitives/supines/to-infinitives/full infintivies. Ruakh 20:28, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Verbal noun[edit]

Should verbal noun be merged with this article? FilipeS 17:18, 18 November 2006 (UTC)


I deleted 'is not limited by a subject' as there is no such technical linguistic term as 'to be limited by the subject' and because finitness is about person-number and/or tense inflections and types of clauses where it occurs (dependent vs. independent clauses). —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Newydd (talkcontribs) 18:17, 4 February 2007 (UTC).

These need examples[edit]

Need examples: "By some accounts, a non-finite verb acts simultaneously as a verb and as another part of speech; 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 the term verbal; non-finite verbs have traditionally been classified as verbal nouns, verbal adjectives, or verbal adverbs."--Treekids (talk) 21:53, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Some points needing clarified[edit]

The above discussions and some parts of the article show confusion on a number of points. The following thoughts might help:

  • The definition of a finite verb, if you look it up in the dictionary (I have the Oxford dictionary in front of me) is that it is "limited in person and number". That means, it has a subject, and the subject is either 1st, 2nd or 3rd person, and either singular or plural, and the semantics of the verb form (in its context) are "limited" (= made finite) to this subject. A non-finite verb has no overt subject.
  • A non-finite verb may nevertheless have a implicit subject, in the sense that it describes an action which an identifiable agent is performing. In the sentence "Looking out of the window, I saw my brother in the street", the word "looking" is non-finite, but it is clear that the semantics of the whole sentence imply "I looked". English has a rule that in a sentence beginning with a non-finite clause, the implicit subject should be the same person as the subject of the finite verb in the main clause, in this case "I". The rule is often broken with no ill effect, but breaking it can lead to absurdities: "Looking out of the window, my ears were cold" sounds odd because strictly it sounds like the ears were looking. Nevertheless, the language tolerates such "dangling modifiers" if the contexts are clear. In some languages, a non-finite verb form may be marked for the gender and number of the implicit subject.
  • In a language which works with periphrastic tenses (as English does), a finite verb can be made up of more than one word. In the English present progressive, "I am going", you could analyze formally by saying that "am" is an auxiliary verb (finite) and "going" is a participle (non-finite), and that is probably how it would be described in the EFL classroom where students need to be taught to put the bits together, but a linguist would look at the whole unit and say "am going" is a finite verb.
  • An overt subject may be "understood". Latin usually omits pronominal subjects because the verb inflections are so clear, but we know that "credo in unum deum" means "ego credo..." - I believe. In English telegram style we can write "Am on holiday in Blackpool", and the word I is understood. The verb is still finite.
  • It is not clear whether the imperative of a verb is finite or not. Linguists argue the point both ways. Most analyses end up classing it under finite, but it has no overt subject. (An exception in German: Setzen Sie sich, 'sit down' - Sie is an overt subject. In English we could say for emphasis "You sit down at once". The argument for seeing imperatives as finite is that an overt subject is always "understood".)
  • The definition of finite has nothing to do with inflection. Many languages do not inflect their finite verbs, many others do inflect their non-finite ones. Nevertheless, in most European languages the finite verb is more highly inflected than the non-finite verb.
  • The definition of finite has nothing to do with tense. It is true that tenses in the traditional sense are features of the finite verb, but non-finite forms also show time perspectives, for example a past participle or a perfect infinitive. If you had to explain the difference between a perfect infinitive and a perfect tense, you would have to come back to the presence or absence of a subject.
  • When we talk about a non-finite verb form, we mean that the form is non-finite in its context. The fact that the same form may be either finite or non-finite in different contexts is irrelevant. English "go" is used for both present tense (I go - finite) and infinitive (to go - non-finite). Although most European languages have clear morphological markers for finite and non-finite, the difference can only really be seen by looking at how the words are used in whole sentences.

Possibly a little more clarity about these points will help things here. --Doric Loon (talk) 21:48, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

I agree with most of what you have said and the definition needs to be re-written. The definition you've given of being "limited in person and number" is different to the definition of not being a finite verb, if we define a finite verb as occurring in independent clauses. What about the sentence "I was annoyed by him snoring" - "him snoring" is not an independent clause, but it does have a subject. Count Truthstein (talk) 11:41, 5 June 2012 (UTC)
Not sure that's a good example: "him" can't be a subject since it's in the object/accusative form (the subject form would be "he"). And "snoring" here is really half way to being nominal - depending on how you analize it (Some people would actually say "his snoring", which makes it a verbal noun or gerund). That's the trouble with -ing forms: they can be verbs, adjectives or nouns depending on context. They are non-finite verbs when they are neither adjectives (the snoring man) nor nouns (Loud snoring is what I hate most), but are also not part of a periphrastic finite verb (I am snoring). A genuine non-finite example would be "Snoring as he did, he was not a good bedfellow for anyone wanting a good night's sleep."
Your changes to the article head are an improvement, though I would still highlight the issue of the overt versus implicit subject more, and omit reference to tense in an initial definition. --Doric Loon (talk) 19:06, 5 June 2012 (UTC)

Edits to article by User:Tjo3ya[edit]

The article as it is is open to the criticism made by Doric Loon, especially (in my opinion) the last three bullet points above. Tjo3ya, do you agree that these are valid concerns? Count Truthstein (talk) 12:56, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

Hello Count, I agree and disagree with the last three points above that you point to. I address each of the three points in turn here:
The first of the three points addresses inflection. There are of course languages that lack inflection on verbs entirely and inflection is therefore not going to be helpful for discerning between finite and non-finite verbs in these languages. Interestingly, English lacks inflection on finite verbs to a large extent. All the readers of this article know English, however, and English does have some inflection on finite verbs, so in this regard, referencing inflection is a good orientation point. At the same time, I can support a statement or two, or even a separate section, that points to the lack of inflection on finite verbs in some languages.
I mostly disagree with the second point. Non-finite verb forms in European languages convey information about aspect, not about tense. Drawing the line between tense and aspect is admittedly not easy, and there is a lot of inconsistency in the area. Technically, however, a language like English has two tenses only, past and present. The complex "tenses" are, again technically, not really tenses at all. For instance, the so-called present perfect tense is not a tense, but rather it is present tense combined with perfect aspect. The blanket statement that finiteness has nothing to do with tense is wrong, because for those languages that do have tense inflection, this inflection will appear on the finite verb. There is a strong connection there.
I agree that there is a solid connection between the presence of a subject and the finite verb. This criterion runs into some difficulty, though, when no overt subject is present, for instance with the imperative or in so-called pro-drop languages. Furthermore, there are non-finite verbs that arguably have subject dependents, e.g.
Jim laughing upset everyone.
In this sentence, Jim is functioning as a subject (although admittedly, it will have object morphology if it is a pronoun).
Concerning the last of the three points, I again mostly disagree. In many languages that have clear inflectional affixes, only finite verbs will bear the inflection markers; they will not appear on non-finite verbs. This fact is largely independent of the context in which the verb appears. For example, if I find a verb in English that bears the -s suffix, I can be reasonably sure that it is a finite verb. There are some exceptions (e.g. plural nouns ending in -s, e.g. two calls), though, and in this regard, I agree with the point. I think to disregard inflection markers as a criterion for identifying finite verbs would, however, be ignoring one important and often reliable means of identifying finite verbs.
Finally, I think some of the difficulty you point to in coming up with a consistent definition of "non-finite verb" is overcome by the syntax trees provided in the article. From the point of view of sentence structure, the finite verb is always the dominate verb in the verb catena. Most any reader will see the trees and then immediately be in a position to form a concept of which verbs are finite and which are non-finite. The finite verb is the one appearing at the top of the sentence structure. --Tjo3ya (talk) 15:06, 10 July 2012 (UTC)
The definition of being the head verb seems to me to be better. It is certainly worth mentioning that non-finite verbs are in most cases not conjugated. An exception is French past participles which use "être", which agree in gender with the subject.
Regarding single verb forms being both finite and non-finite depending on the context, this is a confusion based on multiple meanings of the word "form", similar to confusion about other abstract concepts like "musical note". It can refer to a word in a sentence, as in "the third verb form in the sentence", i.e., a word as used in a context. Or it can refer to an abstract word, where its only identifying characteristics are its pronunciation and spelling. To say that the form "go" is either finite or non-finite is incorrect without being more specific. Unfortunately, the article could give the confusing impression that this is true and that finiteness is a property of objects meeting the more abstract definition. (Incidentally, exactly the same problem occurs with the use of the word "verb" - a non-finite verb is not a type of verb the way that transitive verbs or Germanic weak verbs are types of verb.) Count Truthstein (talk) 20:44, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

I think the article is quite clear now and I don't think anybody will be confused about what a non-finite verb is. I would make a minor criticism which is more theoretic - which is that if finite and non-finite forms are said to be identical, are they actually the same verb form, or two different verb forms which look the same? In other words, is grammatical function part of a form's identity? This is more of a difference in theoretic description than anything which will make a difference to understanding what sentences mean or what are valid sentences in English. At English verbs, most verbs are said to have 5 forms, but if non-finite and finite forms are distinct, they have a few more. Count Truthstein (talk) 13:17, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Hello Count, The five forms listed in the article "English verbs" also overlap to an extent: the preterit form is often form identical to the participle, e.g. We tried that vs. That was tried. So yes, I tend to use the description "form" in a manner that is more consistent with grammatical function. But I bet I am subconsciously inconsistent in the area. The term form is vague indeed. --Tjo3ya (talk) 14:52, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Nonfinite verbs[edit]

Nonfinite verb: The word is "nonfinite" without a hyphen because "non" only takes a hyphen before a proper noun or a proper adjective. For example:
non-British, non-Catholic, non-Communist, non-English, non-French, non-Greek, non-Jewish, non-Protestant, and non-Scottish.
Also, all of these words are used in advanced mathematics: nonabelian, noncontinuous, nonempty, nonfinite, noninfinite, nonnegative, nonpositive, nonrational, nonscientific, and nonzero. (talk) 15:29, 13 October 2013 (UTC)