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Lecture 9. Non - Finite Forms

Verbids are the forms of the verb intermediary in many of their lexico-grammatical features between the verb and the non-processual parts of speech.

In other words, the non-finite forms (the verbals) are the Infinitive, the Gerund and the Participle. They are not formally related to the doer of the action: the relationship is semantic, that’s why they have no categories which formally mark the relationship between the action and the doer of the action (no person and no number), no categories of predication (the tense, the mood) - they can’t be used as the predicate of the sentence, however the Infinitive and the Gerund can generate one-member sentences: No smoking! Why go there? To think of it!

The Infinitive has three grammatical categories: voice, time correlation, aspect. The Gerund and Participle I have two grammatical categories: voice and time correlation.

The processual meaning is exposed by them in a substantive or adjectival-adverbial interpretation: they render processes as peculiar kinds of substances and properties. They are formed by special morphemic elements which do not express either grammatical time or mood (the most specific finite verb categories). They can be combined with verbs like non-processual lexemes (performing non-verbal functions in the sentence), and they can be combined with non-processual lexemes like verbs (performing verbal functions in the sentence) .

Non-finiite forms combine nominal and verbal features - they are partly verbs and partly names (adjectives). This contiguity explains the attempts to refer the non-finite forms to certain classes according to their functioning. Thus in some grammars the Infinitive was referred to the noun, the Participle - to the adjective. As to the Gerund it was a controversial point as it exists only in English and in Spanish.

Verbids are intermediary in many of the lexical grammatical features between the verb and non-processual parts of speech. They render processes as peculiar kinds of substances and properties while the finite forms serve only one syntactic function (finite predicate). The non-finite serves various syntactic functions other than that of the finite predicate.

The opposition between the finite and non-finite forms of the verb creates special grammatical: categories. The differential feature of the opposition is constituted by the expression of verbal time and mood. The verbid has no immediate means of expressing time, mood and categorical semantics and is therefore, the weak member of the opposition. This category can be called the category of finitude: “Have you ever had anything caught in your head — Have you ever had anything that was caught in your head. ”

The verbids, unable to express the predicative meanings of time and mood, still express secondary or potential predication. The opposition of the finite verbs and the verbids is based on the expression of the functions of full predication and semi-predication: while the finite verbs express predication in complete form, the function of the verbids is to express semi-predication building up semi-predicative complexes. The English verbids include 4 forms: the infinitive, the gerund, the present and past participle. In compliance with this difference, the verbid semi-predicative complexes are distinguished by the corresponding differential properties both in form and in syntactic-contextual function.


The present participle is the non-finite form of the verb which combines the properties of the verb with those of the adjective and adverb. The present participle has no categorical time distinctions:

• I am working.

• He was singing.

• They have been walking.

• We will be staying.

• She would have been expecting me.

Since it possesses some traits both of adjective and adverb, the present participle is not dual, but triple by its lexico-grammatical properties, which is displayed in its combinability.

The verb-type combinability of the present participle is revealed:

-in its being combined with nouns expressing the object of the action

-with nouns expressing the subject of the action

-with modifying adverbs

-with auxiliary verbs in the analytical form of the verb.

The adjective-type combinability of the present participle is revealed in its association with the modified nouns as well as with some modifying adverbs such as adverbs of degree.

The adverb-type combinability of the present participle is revealed in its association with the modified verbs

The present participle performs the functions:

-the predicative

-the attribute

-the adverbial modifier of various types.



The past participle is the non-finite form of the verb which combines the properties of the verb with those of the adjective.

It is a single form, having no paradigm of its own. It conveys implicitly the categorial meaning of the perfect and the passive.

The main functions in the sentence are those of the attribute and the predicative.

The past participle is capable of making up semi-predicative constructions of complex object, complex subject, as well as of absolute complex.

The past participial complex object is specifically characteristic with verbs of wish and oblique causality (have, get).

• Cf.: I want the document prepared for signing by 4 p.m. Will you have my coat brushed up, please?

The participial complex subject can be seen with notional links of motion and position.

• Cf.: We sank down and for a while lay there stretched out and exhausted.

The absolute past participial complex as a rule expresses priority in the correlation of two events.

• Cf.: The preliminary talks completed, it became possible to concentrate on the central point of the agenda.

The past participles of non-objective verbs are rarely used in independent sentence-part positions; they are mostly included in phraseological or cliche combinations like: fallen leaves, a retired officer, dream come true.

The past participle is traditionally interpreted as being capable of adverbial-related use (like the present participle). The adverbial uses of the present participle react to similar tests in a different way.

• Cf.: Passing on to the library, he found Mabel entertaining her guests. →As he passed on to the library, he found Mabel entertaining her guests.

The adverbial force of the present participle in constructions like that is shown simply as resulting from the absence of obligatory mediation of be between the participle and its subject.

• Cf.: Though red in the face, the boy kept denying his guilt. →Though he was red in the face, the boy kept denying his guilt.

As we see, the word red does not change its adjectival quality for an adverbial quality. Being red in the face would again present another categorial case.

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