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NON-FINITE FORMS OF THE VERB, NON-FINITE CLAUSES

PART 1 - NON-FINITE FORMS of Verbs


1. Before we look more closely at non-finite clauses (scheduled for weeks 9 & 10), let us look again at non-
finite forms (or “secondary forms” as SIEG analysis them) of verbs.

Remember that non-finite forms do not have primary tense and the notion of finite-ness in grammar
literally means constrained / limited by grammatical tense. So, finite forms (the main verb in a clause, for
example) express past or present tense while non-finite forms do not.

2. Structure Of Non-Finite (Or “Secondary Forms”) Of Verbs :These are


a. -ing form of the verb (sometimes referred to as a gerund,) Example:
i. Swimming makes you fit. /She enjoys swimming. Verb + ing (gerund) /ing-participle
b. –en/ed form Example:
ii. [Written in 1864], it soon became a classic - Verb + en en-participle
c. to- infinitives (more verb-like meanings). Example:
iii. David loves [to play the piano] to + Verb (infinitive)
d. bare infinitives Example:
iv. We made [David play the piano] Verb (bare infinitive)

3. Verbs Followed by Infinitives & Gerunds


A. Some verbs can be followed by both an infinitive or a gerund. Eg.
v. Garfield loves eating
vi. Garfield loves to eat

B. QUESTION ABOUT MEANING: Is there a difference in the meanings they convey?

C. The ANSWER : Often, yes. As Otto Jespersen said : “The infinitive seems more appropriate than the
gerund to denote the imaginative (unreal)”
The following points, (Extracted from George Yule , Explaining English Grammar, Oxford Univ. Press, 1998.)
may help us to see the differences more clearly:

1. to + verb –express future possibilities ; generally something that has not yet taken place

2. v+ing – situations described are treated as already in existence , not as future possibilities

3. when both infins. possible – with diff of meaning –(INF: more Verb-like actions; Gerunds more noun-like
events) FORGET, REMEMBER
vii. He forgot to take his medicine (he didn’t take it)
viii. He forgot taking his medicine (He took it and then forgot about having done so)
( Notice : INF : non-factual status, Gerund : “actually happened” status)

D. More Examples
ix. You must remember to pay the bills ( remember before you pay)
x. He stopped to buy magazines (stop before buy)
xi. We regret to say this (regret before say)
xii. You must remember paying bills (remember after pay)
xiii. He stopped buying magazines (stop after buying)
xiv. We regret saying that (regret after saying)

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xv. I like to box / to dance/ to sing/ to ski
xvi. I like boxing / dancing/ singing/ skiing

(NOTE: In example (xv) the speaker is talking about herself as the agent performing the acts; in (xvi) it’s the
event , not the act that is the focus of information with the possibility that the speaker is herself not a
performer in the events.

E: SUMMARY :
to - V V -ing
FEATURES more verb-like more noun-like
no possessive modifier poss. modifier possible
specified agent likely no specified agent

MEANINGS acts events


performer assumed performer not assumed
less definite more definite
possibly happens actually happens

F: FOR PRACTISE: The table given below is useful for practice with specific verbs:
(Main) verbs that Non-finite complements
can’t have an infinitive (Main) verbs that (Main) verbs that (Main) verbs that can be
or gerund after them; can be followed can be followed followed by
they can be followed only by to-V only by V-ing both to-V and V-ing
only by subordinator
“that” (ie. finite
content clauses)
argue agree avoid begin
assume allow consider cease
believe arrange detest continue
content beg enjoy dread
guess choose fancy forget
know decide finish hate
realize decline keep like
say hope postpone love
state offer practice prefer
suppose promise resent regret
think tell resist remember
wonder want suggest stop

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Part 2 - NON-FINITE CLAUSES

A. TYPES : There are four kinds of non-finite clause in English:


CONSTRUCTION EXAMPLE VERB FORM REQUIRED
to-infinitival to write a novel plain form verb
bare infinitival write a novel plain form verb
gerund-participial writing a novel gerund-participle
past-participial written a novel past participle

B. FORM OF NON-FINITE CLAUSES:


o verb is inflected in a secondary form (non-finite form)
o special subordinators
o non-nominative case on pronoun subject
o may lack an overt subject altogether
o may have an understood omitted non-subject

C. SUBJECTLESS NON-FINITES AND THE PROBLEM OF MEANING


1. many non-finites have no overt subject. the subject is “understood” and in this can be because of
syntactic determination, or without.
2. many non-finites function as adjuncts (i.e. as modifiers or as supplement) in a clause, and this may lead
to a possible difficulty in understanding them:

EXERCISES – Reformulate the sentences by moving phrases/clauses around in order to avoid ambiguity. Add
any other words you might need.

1. Raised in Nova Scotia, it is natural to miss the smell of the sea.


2. Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap
3. Having been thrown in the air, the dog caught the stick.
4. Smashed flat by a passing truck, Big Dog sniffed at what was left of a half-eaten hamburger.
5. " I heard that my roommate intended to throw a surprise party for me while I was outside her bedroom
window.
6. Driving north, the vegetation became increasingly sparse.
7. By the age of fourteen, both of Jackson's parents had died.
8. Unaware of what had happened, the confusion puzzled Jan.
9. Looking out the window, a velvety lawn ran down to the river's edge.
10. Laughing loudly, the joke pleased the audience.
11. Forgetting to buy gas, the car wouldn't start.
12. Typing slowly, the paper seemed endless.
13. Eating too much, my stomach was upset.
14. Using high-powered binoculars, the lost child was found.
15. The guest speaker had dedicated his new book to his dog who was an archaeologist.
16. Oswald and Hilda found the flowers hiking up the mountain.
17. We saw dinosaurs on a field trip to the natural history museum.
18. After reading the paper, the telephone rang.