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Traditionally, a finite
verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax generally conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual descr ...
(from la, fīnītus, past participle of to put an end to, bound, limit) is the form "to which
number A number is a mathematical object used to count, measure, and label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More universally, individual numbers c ...
and person appertain", in other words, those inflected for
number A number is a mathematical object used to count, measure, and label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More universally, individual numbers c ...
and person. Verbs were originally said to be ''finite'' if their form limited the possible person and number of the subject. A more recent concept treats a finite verb as any verb that heads a simple declarative sentence. Under that newer articulation, finite verbs often constitute the locus of grammatical information regarding
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to femininity and masculinity and differentiating between them. Depending on the context, this may include sex-based social structures (i.e. gender roles) and gender identity. Most cultures us ...
, person,
number A number is a mathematical object used to count, measure, and label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More universally, individual numbers c ...
, tense, aspect, mood, and voice. Finite verbs are distinguished from non-finite verbs, such as
infinitive Infinitive (abbreviated ) is a linguistics term for certain verb forms existing in many languages, most often used as non-finite verbs. As with many linguistic concepts, there is not a single definition applicable to all languages. The word is der ...
s,
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin ' a "sharing, partaking") is a nonfinite verb form that has some of the characteristics and functions of both verbs and adjectives. More narrowly, ''participle'' has been defined as "a word derived from ...
s,
gerund In linguistics, a gerund ( abbreviated ) is any of various nonfinite verb forms in various languages; most often, but not exclusively, one that functions as a noun. In English, it has the properties of both verb and noun, such as being modifiabl ...
s etc., which generally mark these grammatical categories to a lesser degree or not at all, and which appear below the finite verb in the hierarchy of syntactic structure.


Examples

The finite verbs are in bold in the following sentences, and the non-finite verbs are underlined: : Verbs appear in almost all sentences. : This sentence is illustrating finite and non-finite verbs. : The dog will have to be trained well. : Tom promised to try to do the work. In many languages (including English), there can be one finite verb at the root of each clause (unless the finite verbs are coordinated), whereas the number of non-finite verbs can reach up to five or six, or even more, e.g. : He was believed to have been told to have himself examined. Finite verbs can appear in
dependent clause A subordinate clause, dependent clause, subclause, or embedded clause is a clause that is embedded within a complex sentence. For instance, in the English sentence "I know that Bette is a dolphin", the clause "that Bette is a dolphin" occurs as th ...
s as well as independent clauses: : John said that he enjoyed reading. : Something you make yourself seems better than something you buy. Most types of verbs can appear in finite or non-finite form (and sometimes these forms may be identical): for example, the English verb ''go'' has the finite forms ''go'', ''goes'', and ''went'', and the non-finite forms ''go'', ''going'' and ''gone''. The
English modal verbs The English modal verbs are a subset of the English auxiliary verbs used mostly to express modality (properties such as possibility, obligation, etc.). They can be distinguished from other verbs by their defectiveness (they do not have participle ...
(''can'', ''could'', ''will'', etc.) are defective and lack non-finite forms. It might seem that every grammatically complete sentence or clause must contain a finite verb. However, sentences lacking a finite verb were quite common in the old Indo-European languages, and still occur in many present-day languages. The most important type of these are nominal sentences. Another type are sentence fragments described as
phrase In syntax and grammar, a phrase is a group of words or singular word acting as a grammatical unit. For instance, the English expression "the very happy squirrel" is a noun phrase which contains the adjective phrase "very happy". Phrases can co ...
s or minor sentences. In
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
and some
Romance languages The Romance languages, sometimes referred to as Latin languages or Neo-Latin languages, are the various modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin. They are the only extant subgroup of the Italic languages in the Indo-European language fa ...
, there are a few words that can be used to form sentences without verbs, such as Latin ''ecce'', Portuguese ''eis'',
French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France ** French language, which originated in France, and its various dialects and accents ** French people, a nation and ethnic group identified with Fran ...
''voici'' and ''voilà'', and Italian ''ecco'', all of these translatable as ''here ... is'' or ''here ... are''. Some
interjection An interjection is a word or expression that occurs as an utterance on its own and expresses a spontaneous feeling or reaction. It is a diverse category, encompassing many different parts of speech, such as exclamations ''(ouch!'', ''wow!''), curse ...
s can play the same role. Even in English, utterances that lack a finite verb are common, e.g. ''Yes.'', ''No.'', ''Bill!'', ''Thanks.'', etc. A finite verb is generally expected to have a subject, as it does in all the examples above, although null-subject languages allow the subject to be omitted. For example, in the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
sentence ''cogito ergo sum'' (" I think therefore I am") the finite verbs ''cogito'' and ''sum'' appear without an explicit subject – the subject is understood to be the first-person
personal pronoun Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person (as ''I''), second person (as ''you''), or third person (as ''he'', ''she'', ''it'', ''they''). Personal pronouns may also take di ...
, and this information is marked by the way the verbs are inflected. In English, finite verbs lacking subjects are normal in imperative sentences: : Come over here! : Don't look at him! And also occur in some fragmentary utterances: : tdoesn't matter. : don't want to 'verb''


Grammatical categories

The relatively poor system of inflectional morphology in English often obscures the central role of finite verbs. In other languages, finite verbs are the locus of much grammatical information. Depending on the language, finite verbs can inflect for the following grammatical categories: *
Gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to femininity and masculinity and differentiating between them. Depending on the context, this may include sex-based social structures (i.e. gender roles) and gender identity. Most cultures us ...
, i.e. masculine, feminine or neuter. * Person, e.g. 1st, 2nd, or 3rd (I/we, you, he/she/it/they). *
Number A number is a mathematical object used to count, measure, and label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More universally, individual numbers c ...
, e.g. singular or plural (or dual). * Tense, i.e. present, past or future. * Aspect, e.g. perfect, perfective, progressive, etc. * Mood, e.g. indicative, subjunctive, imperative, optative, etc. * Voice, i.e. active, middle, or passive. The first three categories represent agreement information that the finite verb gets from its subject (by way of subject–verb agreement). The other four categories serve to situate the clause content according to time in relation to the speaker (tense), extent to which the action, occurrence, or state is complete (aspect), assessment of reality or desired reality (mood), and relation of the subject to the action or state (voice). Modern English is an
analytic language In linguistic typology, an analytic language is a language that conveys relationships between words in sentences primarily by way of ''helper'' words (particles, prepositions, etc.) and word order, as opposed to using inflections (changing the ...
(
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the mid-5t ...
is frequently presented as a
synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection or agglutination to express syntactic relationships within a sentence. Inflection is the addition of morphemes to a root word that assigns grammatical property to that word, while agglutination is the combin ...
), which means it has limited ability to express the categories by verb inflection, and it often conveys such information periphrastically, using auxiliary verbs. In a sentence such as : Sam laughs a lot, the verb form agrees in person (3rd) and number (singular) with the subject, by means of the ''-s'' ending, and this form also indicates tense (present), aspect (" simple"), mood ( indicative) and voice (active). However, most combinations of the categories need to be expressed using auxiliaries: : Sam will have been examined by this afternoon. Here the auxiliaries ''will'', ''have'' and ''been'' express respectively future time, perfect aspect and passive voice. (See English verb forms.) Highly inflected languages like
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
and Russian, however, frequently express most or even all of the categories in one finite verb.


Theories of syntax

Finite verbs play a particularly important role in syntactic analyses of sentence structure. In many
phrase structure grammar The term phrase structure grammar was originally introduced by Noam Chomsky as the term for grammar studied previously by Emil Post and Axel Thue ( Post canonical systems). Some authors, however, reserve the term for more restricted grammars in ...
s for instance those that build on the X-bar schema, the finite verb is the head of the finite verb phrase and so it is the head of the entire sentence. Similarly, in
dependency grammar Dependency grammar (DG) is a class of modern grammatical theories that are all based on the dependency relation (as opposed to the ''constituency relation'' of phrase structure) and that can be traced back primarily to the work of Lucien Tesni ...
s, the finite verb is the root of the entire clause and so is the most prominent structural unit in the clause. That is illustrated by the following trees: :: The phrase structure grammar trees are the a-trees on the left; they are similar to the trees produced in the government and binding framework. The b-trees on the right are the dependency grammar trees.On such dependency trees, see, for instance, Eroms (2000). Many of the details of the trees are not important for the point at hand, but they show clearly that the finite verb (in bold each time) is the structural center of the clause. In the phrase structure trees, the highest projection of the finite verb, IP ( inflection phrase) or CP ( complementizer phrase), is the root of the entire tree. In the dependency trees, the projection of the finite verb (V) is the root of the entire structure.


See also

*
Nonfinite verb A nonfinite verb is a derivative form of a verb unlike finite verbs. Accordingly, nonfinite verb forms are inflected for neither number nor person, and they cannot perform action as the root of an independent clause. In English, nonfinite verbs i ...
* Conjugation *
Dependency grammar Dependency grammar (DG) is a class of modern grammatical theories that are all based on the dependency relation (as opposed to the ''constituency relation'' of phrase structure) and that can be traced back primarily to the work of Lucien Tesni ...
*
Phrase In syntax and grammar, a phrase is a group of words or singular word acting as a grammatical unit. For instance, the English expression "the very happy squirrel" is a noun phrase which contains the adjective phrase "very happy". Phrases can co ...
*
Phrase structure grammar The term phrase structure grammar was originally introduced by Noam Chomsky as the term for grammar studied previously by Emil Post and Axel Thue ( Post canonical systems). Some authors, however, reserve the term for more restricted grammars in ...
* Verb phrase


Notes


References

*Greenbaum, S. and R. Quirk. 1990. A student's grammar of the English language. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman. *Cowper, E. 2009
A concise introduction to syntactic theory: The government-binding approach
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. *Downing, A. and P. Locke. 1992. English grammar: A university course, second edition. London: Routledge. *Eroms, H.-W. 2000. Syntax der deutschen Sprache. Berlin: de Gruyter. *Finch, G. 2000. Linguistic terms and concepts. New York: St. Martin's Press. *Fortson, B. 2004. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell Publishing. *Haegeman, L. 1994. Introduction to government and binding theory, 2nd edition. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. *Klammer, T. and M. Schulz. 1996. Analyzing English grammar. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. *Oxford English Dictionary 1795. "finite ..''Of a verb'': limited by number and person. *Quirk, R. S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, and J. Svartvik. 1979. A grammar of contemporary English. London: Longman. *Radford, A. 1997
Syntactic theory and the structure of English: A minimalist approach
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. {{Authority control Verb types