Section 5: Non-Finite Verb Phrases

A nonfinite verb is a verb without tense:

Infinitive Phrase

Participle Phrase

Gerund Phrase 

Nonfinite Verb Phrases DO NOT occur as part of a main verb phrase and can function nominally, adjectivally, or adverbially. Because infinitives, participles, and gerunds are verbs, they can have the same subjects and predicates (objects, complements, and modifiers) they would have had in the clauses from which they are derived. While these are important considerations for understanding the deep structures of these phrases syntactically, Analyzing Grammar in Context asks you primarily to analyze only what you see, focusing on the phrases themselves and how they are functioning in the context of its sentence.

He likes to drive. (nominal infinitive phrase)

drinking fountain (adjectival present participle phrase)

Drinking and driving do not mix. (nominal gerund phrases)

A nonfinite verb phrase may include the subject or complements (or both) of the finite verb from which it is derived, but it is not a clause:

Accepting a position as a law clerk pleased her grandmother.

Gerund phrase (with direct object and object modifier) functioning as subject

We will discuss each of the nonfinite verb phrases in more detail in the following pages.