Students understanding the complexity of language

Chapter 03-03: Phrases II – Nonfinite Verb Phrases


chapter 3: nonfinite verb phrases

A nonfinite verb is a verb without tense. There are three forms of nonfinite verb phrase:
Nonfinite Verb Phrases DO NOT occur as part of a main verb phrase and function nominally, adjectivally, or adverbially. Because infinitives, participles, and gerunds are transformed main verbs, they can have all of the same elements in a predicate, such as a direct object, object complement, or other modifiers. Since our goal is to analyze these phrases in the context of their sentence, you need to be able to identify all parts of a nonfinite verb phrase, whether it’s a single word or a much longer phrase:
  • He likes to drive. (nominal infinitive phrase, serving as the direct object of LIKES) nominal slot
  • Accepting a position as a law clerk pleased her grandmother. (nominal gerund phrase serving as the subject of a clause) nominal slot
  • drinking fountain (adjectival present participle phrase, modifying FOUNTAIN) adjectival slot
  • The girl held her nose, bothered by the smell. (adverbial past participle phrase – can be moved to the front) adverbial slot
As you can see, nonfinite verb phrases function either nominally, adjectivally, or adverbially. Therefore they can fit in any of these FUNCTION SLOTS as phrases.