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Nonfinite Clauses—Timing & Voice

Express earlier, same or later timing

door unlocked
 

In Context

In the morning, when Jack got to his office, he couldn't help thinking that he had forgotten to do something.

When he returned home, he was surprised to find his brother Adam sitting on his sofa watching TV.

"How did you get in?" asked Jack.

"The front door was unlocked," replied Adam. "Dude, don't you ever lock your doors?"

Jack remembered leaving his house, locking the door, and walking toward his car. Then, he recalled seeing and picking up a newspaper, returning to his door, unlocking it, and putting the newspaper inside. But he did not remember re-locking the door.

"You must've forgotten¹ to lock the door after putting your newspaper inside," Adam reasoned.

Jack admitted to having been preoccupied by things happening at work.

"I had an uneasy feeling when I got to my office because I knew that I had forgotten something."

"You seem to have left the back door open too," added Adam. "When I got here, there was a raccoon in your kitchen."

"What? You're kidding, right?"

"Yeah, I am.  But maybe you should be a little more concerned about locking up. Otherwise, you might find someone uglier than me sitting on your sofa waiting for you to come home."

"Someone uglier? Not a chance," smiled Jack. With that thought in mind, he began paying more attention  to locking his doors.

Glossary

admit (V) — to agree unwillingly that something is true or that someone else is right

be kidding (V) — be joking

cannot help (v. p.) — cannot stop or cannot avoid

distract (V) — take someone's attention; distracted (Adj) — not paying full attention

dude (N) — (slang) a greeting or attention getter for another male, particularly used among stoners, surfers and skaters. (US-Eng)

door knob (N) — the handle, the part you turn to open the door or to check if it is locked

forget to lock vs. forget locking  (See Meaning Differs.)

get to (v. prep.) — arrived at

must've (modal + aux.) — contraction of must + have (heard in informal speech)

preoccupied by (participle v.) / preoccupied with (participle adj.) — be thinking about something so much that other things are not watched or completed properly

priority (N) — something given special attention; comes first

raccoon (N) — a small North American animal with black fur around its eyes and black and gray rings on its tail

ugly (Adj) / uglier (comparative) — unpleasant in appearance

uneasy feeling (expr.) — a state of being anxious  or worried about something

yeah (informal) — a affirmative, yes

 

Also see: Nonfinite Clauses (primary vs. secondary verb forms) and Because -ing  (comparing past events) and Gerunds (gerund meaning differs from infinitive meaning).

 

 

Nonfinite Clauses "Earlier"

Comment on past activities or events

Newspaper on driveway
 

Earlier Timing (Active vs. Passive)

ACTIVE  NONFINITE CLAUSES

The interpretation of the timing in a nonfinite clause is related to the meaning of the verb in the main clause. If the meaning of the verb permits it, an earlier time frame may be expressed in a gerund nonfinite clause with having + participle or infinitive nonfinite clause with to have + participle.

MEMORY EARLIER TIME

Jack remembers

Jack remembered 

recall, recollect, forget

¹Memory verbs already carry the meaning of recalling an earlier activity. Both -ing and having + ed forms imply an earlier time.

having left the house unlocked.

not having checked the door knob.

And also¹:

leaving the house unlocked.

not checking the door knob.

 ATTITUDE COMMENT EARLIER TIME

He admits (to)

He admitted  (to)

acknowledge, admit (ger.), apologize for, celebrate, confess to, deny, regret, resent (claim, mention, comment on, report)

having left the door unlocked. 

OPINION COMMENT EARLIER TIME

He seems

He seemed

He is believed

² [be] believe, [be] likely, seem, appear, happen, turn out, (ought)

to have left it unlocked.  (infin.)

OPINION / MODAL EARLIER TIME

He may  (bare inf.) 

may, must, will, might

have left the house unlocked. (bare infin³.)

have been leaving it unlocked. (bare infin. progressive)

PASSIVE NONFINITE CLAUSES

Similarly, if the meaning of the verb in the main clause permits it, an earlier time frame may be expressed in a passive gerund nonfinite clause with having been + participle or in a passive infinitive nonfinite clause with (to) have been + participle (infinitive).                                                          

MEMORY EARLIER TIME

Jack remembers

Jack remembered

recall, recollect, forget

¹Memory verbs already carry the meaning of recalling an earlier activity. Both -ing and having + ed forms imply an earlier time.

having been distracted by …

not having been focused on…

And also¹:

being distracted¹ by the newspaper.

not being focused¹ on locking…

 ATTITUDE COMMENT EARLIER TIMIE

He admits (to)

He admitted (to)

acknowledge, admit (ger.), apologize for, celebrate, confess to, deny, regret, resent (claim, mention, comment on, report)

having been preoccupied.

OPINION COMMENT EARLIER TIME

He seems 

He seemed

He is believed

² [be] believe, [be] likely, seem, appear, happen, turn out, (ought)

to have been preoccupied.   (infin.)

OPINION / MODAL EARLIER TIME

He may  

may, must, will, might

 

have been preoccupied. (bare (infin.³)

 

² This group of verbs also takes a "dummy" pronoun "it" and (be) — It seems that he left the door unlocked.  /  He seems to have left the door unlocked. ("ought" — is marginally included but cannot be used with an "It" pronoun.)  See It Seems.

³ bare infinitive —a modal is followed by a "bare infinitive" verb form that does not include to; "bare infinitive" indicates the plain or base form of the verb (e.g., He can go. / He is able to go.)  That is, both "go" and "to go" are infinitive forms, but "go" is called a "bare infinitive". (See Bare Infinitives.)

forget (V)—carries the meaning of recalling an earlier activity; mostly used in past or present perfect tenses.  See "I Forget".

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nonfinite Clauses "Same Time"

Comment on current activities or events

Man at work
 

Same Time (Active vs. Passive)

ACTIVE  VOICE  NONFINITE CLAUSES

If the meaning of the verb in the main clause permits it, a current time frame may be expressed in an infinitive nonfinite clause with to + verb or to be + verb-ing (participle) or a gerund nonfinite clause with verb-ing (participle).                                

 ATTITUDE COMMENT SAME TIME

He admits to

He admitted to

acknowledge, admit, admit to, apologize for, celebrate, confess to, deny, regret, resent, claim, mention, comment on, report

leaving the door unlocked. (ger.)

He seems

He seemed

¹ [be] believe, [be] likely, seem, appear, happen, turn out, (ought)

to leave the door unlocked.  (infin.)

to be leaving it unlocked. (progressive infin.)

 

ASPECT ² SAME TIME

He began  

begin, start, stop, continue

(a verb whose meaning specifies a point in time)

to leave the house unlocked. (infin.)

leaving the house unlocked.  (ger.)

OPINION / MODAL SAME TIME

He may

may, must, will, might

leave the house unlocked. (bare infin.)

be leaving the house unlocked. (bare infin. progressive)

He likes  

like, hate, dislike, love (detest, can't stand [ger. only])

to leave the house unlocked. (infin.)

leaving the house unlocked.  (ger.)

PASSIVE VOICE NONFINITE CLAUSES

Similarly, if the meaning of the verb in the main clause permits it, a current time frame may be expressed in a passive infinitive nonfinite clause with to be + past participle and a passive gerund nonfinite clause with being + past-participle.            

 ATTITUDE COMMENT SAME TIME

He admits to

He admitted to

acknowledge, admit, admit to, apologize for, celebrate, confess to, deny, regret, resent, claim, mention, comment on, report

being preoccupied by work. (ger.)

He seems 

He seemed

¹ [be] believe, [be] likely, seem, appear, happen, turn out, (ought)

to be preoccupied by work. (infin.)

ASPECT SAME TIME

He began

begin, start, stop, continue

to be preoccupied by work. (infin.)

being preoccupied by work. (ger.)

OPINION / MODAL SAME TIME / LATER

He may  

may, must, will, might

be preoccupied by work.  (bare infin.)

 

He likes

like, hate, dislike, love

to be distracted by others. (infin.)

being distracted by others. (ger.)

 

"aspect" relates to the timing of an action: progressive /nonprogressive, ongoing / completed (Huddleston 162)

³ bare infinitive —a modal is followed by a "bare infinitive" verb form that does not include to; "bare infinitive" indicates the plain or base form of the verb (e.g., He can go. / He is able to go.)  That is, both "go" and "to go" are infinitive forms, but "go" is called a "bare infinitive". (See Bare Infinitives.)

"Men at Work." by reynermedia, Flickr. 5 Dec 2013. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Accessed on 6 Jan 2017.

 

 

 

 

Nonfinite Clauses "Later"

Comment on future activities or events

Jack
 

Later Time (Active vs. Passive)

ACTIVE  NONFINITE CLAUSES

The interpretation of the time in the nonfinite clause is related to the meaning of the verb in the main clause. If the meaning of the verb in the main clause permits it, an earlier time frame may be expressed in the nonfinite clause with having + participle (gerund) or to have + participle (infinitive).

OPINION / MODAL SAME OR LATER TIME

Adam may

may, must, will, might, should

stay a while. (bare infin.³)

Adam likes

He'd like

like, hate, dislike, love (detest, can't stand [ger. only])

to lounge in his brother's house. (infin.)

FUTURE INTENT LATER TIME

Adam plans

aim, expect, hope, intend, plan, propose, want

to stay a while. (infin.)

He plans on

plan on, consider, intend on

staying a while. (ger.)

PASSIVE NONFINITE CLAUSES

Similarly, if the meaning of the verb in the main clause permits it, a later time frame may be expressed in a passive infinitive nonfinite clause with (to) be + past participle or a passive gerund nonfinite clause with being + past-participle.        

OPINION / MODAL SAME OR LATER TIME

He may 

may, must, will, might, should

be invited to stay by his brother. (bare infin.³)

Adam likes 

He'd like

like, hate, dislike, love (detest, can't stand [ger. only])

to be entertained by his brother.  (infin.)

FUTURE INTENT LATER TIME

He plans

aim, expect, hope, intend, plan, propose, want

to be less preoccupied by work. (infin.)

He plans on

plan on, consider, intend on

being less preoccupied by work. (ger.)

 

³ bare infinitive —a modal is followed by a "bare infinitive" verb form that does not include to; "bare infinitive" indicates the plain or base form of the verb (e.g., He can go. / He is able to go.)  That is, both "go" and "to go" are infinitive forms, but "go" is called a "bare infinitive". (See Bare Infinitives.)

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*He remembered he meeting him but didn't know where.

*The house seemed to occupied by someone.

He began to be liking his new job.

The dome of the church is thought to be constructed from 1296 to 1436.

They ought asked  us before taking the car.

SOLUTION

He remembered meeting him, but didn't know where. 
or  (a memory verb implies an earlier time)
He remembered having met him, but didn't know where.

A nonfinite clause (gerund clause) is reduced. The subject is not usually included but may be included in a possessive form.   

He remembered his having met him, but didn't know where.

The house seemed to be occupied by someone. (same time)

The house seemed to have been occupied by someone.  (earlier)

He began to like his new job.

He began liking his new job.

A verb indicating an exact point in time (began) is not used with clause indicating progressive timing.

The dome of the church is thought to have been constructed from 1296 to 1436. (earlier)

 

They ought to have asked  us before taking the car.

The past form of the quasi modal expression "ought" includes a bare infinitive (omit "to") have+ -ed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

 

 

Traditional / ESL and Linguistic Descriptions

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

Passive infinitive: to be + past participle   (Azar 15-4)

I didn't expect to be asked (by him).

Passive  Gerund: being + past participle  (Azar 15-4)

I enjoyed being  asked (by him).

Perfect -ing form:  having + past participle (Swan 293.2)

Having slept for twelve hours, I felt rested.

Perfect or Past Meaning: to have + past participle (Swan 288.1)

I am sorry to have left the party early.

I was sorry to have left the party early. 

 

Verbs followed by infinitives or gerunds (Huddleston 1241)

Historically, "to" verbs are associated with a goal, with a projected time in the future.

He asked them to come.

She promises to bake some cookies.

They told us to eat one. 

In contrast "ing" verbs are commonly associated with what is current and actual:

We enjoy talking. 

He finished reading. 

They practiced playing piano.    

The catenative construction— Huddleston and Pullum include five classes of verbs whose meanings affect the interpretation of the timing of the activity in the nonfinite clause. (3 §7 [1-3])

Class 1  I remember talking about it.  [anterior]

Class 2 He resents her talking about it when he was not there.  [anterior]

             He resents her talking about it.  [anterior or simultaneous]

Class 3 She is believed to be hiding.  [simultaneous]

Class 4 She  may be a gossip.  [simultaneous]

             She may apologize. [posterior]

Class 5 She plans to apologize.   [posterior]

The interpretation of the time in the nonfinite clause is related to the semantic properties of the verb in the matrix clause. 

 

Infinitive Form-types 14 §1.1 [5]

I expect to have finished soon.  [perfect have]

I expect to be working soon.  [progressive be]

I expect to be interviewed.   [passive be]

 

Gerund-participle Form-types 14 §1.1[6]

I regret having finished so soon.  [perfect have]

I regret being interviewed.   [passive be]

I regret having been interviewed (by them).  [perfect, passive]

*I regret being working soon.  [progressive be]

 

Also see Finite / Nonfinite.

 

 

 

References

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Missing Person

hiker
 

 

It's a Mystery!

Michael Wilson loved to walk. However, on March 4, he seems (walk away) and (disappear).  No one has seen him for a month. A neighbor remembers (see) him on his way to the foothills on that March morning.  He was supposed (meet up) with his ex-wife later that evening, but he never appeared.

A restless wanderer, Michael could often (find¹) strolling the bay lands, hiking in the foothills, or trekking the wooded paths along Crystal Springs Lake. One time, he walked so far that he had to pay a taxi driver $40 to get him back home.

At first, he appeared (be) lost. Then, he was feared (be) hurt.

His family searched every trail that he was known (walk). The police began (search) the hillsides and lake area methodically with search dogs.

Still a month later, no one has seen him. His family regrets not (involve) the police immediately. Michael Wilson suffers from depression. He is thought just (walk away) from life. At this point, Michael is considered to be a voluntary missing adult.

Police agencies in Northern California have been notified of Wilson's disappearance. He has also been listed on a national database of missing persons.

comb (V) — search in detail

on his way (prep phr.) — walking, going in a particular direction

methodically (adv.) — systematically, in an organized manner

voluntary (Adj) — something done from one's own will or desire; free choice

wanderer (N) — a person who moves or travels about without any definite purpose or destination

wooded paths — walking trails (walkways) among the trees

¹ sensory verbs hear, see, feel, find, notice, catch are followed by gerunds  (strolling, hiking, trekking)

 

 

 

 

Complete the sentence with a nonfinite clause that has the correct voice (active/passive) and timing (earlier, same, later).

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.
It's a complete mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Distracted Driving

car squeezed between buses
 

 

 

 

Read for Errors

When the police arrived on the scene of an accident at Townsend Boulevard and Main Street, they could not believe their eyes. Fortunately, the driver had escaped out of the back of the car and was not hurt.

Police: What happened?

Driver:  I recall having stopped at the red light at the intersection of Townsend Blvd. and Main St. And I remember watching the tram come to a stop on my left. So when the light turned green, I began making a left turn onto Townsend.

Police:  You appeared to turn left onto the tram tracks rather than the boulevard.

Driver: I admit being distracted by a guy on a blue motorbike who was turning left, just as I was about to turn left.

Police:  A motorbike? Well, he is likely to pass between the trains without any problem.  Is he still around here?

Driver:  No, he seems to be vanished down the middle of the tracks.

Police:  When did you realize you were in the middle of the tracks rather than on the street?

Driver:  I realized I was between the rails when a train started coming the opposite direction, on my right, towards the one that was on my left. I panicked and didn't have time to back up.

Police:  Did you continue to be driving forward?

Driver:  Yes. I thought I could squeeze between them, but now I regret having trying that.

Police:  I bet you do.

escape (V) — leave, get out of a place you were inside of

distract (V) — take ones attention away; distracted (Adj) — having one's attention drawn to something else

I/You bet (expression) — yes, indeed; —Can you fix it? —You bet! ("You can bet on it." or "You can be sure of it.")

panic / panicked (V) — a sudden overwhelming fear that causes irrational behavior

tracks (N) — rails on which a train moves

tram (N) — a street car; a light weight train

vanish (V) — disappear; He vanished.

 

 

 

 

Identify correct or incorrect timing in nonfinite clauses.

  1. Select your response "correct" or "incorrect"
  2. Compare your response to the answer by clicking the "check 11-20" button.

 

11.
I recall having stopped at the red light at the intersection of Townsend Blvd. and Main St.

   

12.
And I remember watching the train come to a stop on my left.

   

13.
So when the light turned green, I began making a left turn onto Townsend.

   

14.
You appeared to turn left onto the tram tracks rather than the boulevard.

   

15.
I admit being distracted by a guy on a blue motorbike who turned left, just as I did.

   

16.
Well, he is likely to pass between the trains without any problem.  Is he still around here?.

   

17.
No, he seems to be vanished down the middle.

   

18.
I realized I was on the track when a train started coming the opposite direction, on my right, towards the one that was on my left.

   

19.
Did you continue to be driving forward?

   

20.
Yes. I thought I could squeeze between them, but now I regret having trying that.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

"When's Day"

Norse god Odin
 

 

Read the Context (with errors)

In school, I was good at recess but terrible at spelling. I remember the teacher asking me to spell the fourth day of the week. 

"W-E-N-S-D-A-Y".

"You seem to forget a few letters," commented the teacher.

I began say the letters again, "W-H-E-N-S-D-A-Y".

The class laughed. I felt embarrassed.

"Did you spell it 'when' like the question?" asked the teacher.

"Yes, 'When's day'. "

"No," she smiled. "The name Wednesday comes from Norse mythology. The day is named after the god Odin, also called Wodanaz. So think of it as 'Woden's day'. In Old English, it was Wōdnesdæg, and in Middle English, it became Wednesdai. And now, it is Wednesday."

"Why don't we pronounce all the letters?" I asked.

"Well, we seem to have simplified the pronunciation of Wednesday but not the spelling. Perhaps in the future, the spelling will change, but for now, plan to spell it like this (Wednesday)," she added.

"Can't we just call it Humpday?" asked a student in the back of the class.

"I don't recall seeing that word in the dictionary," replied the teacher. Dictionaries must formally accept a word before we can confidently use it in our writing.

"How does a word become accepted?"

As more people begin to use a word, it starts to appear more frequently in writing—newspapers, magazines and books—and in speech—conversation, newscasts, and lectures. The more frequently a word occurs, the more likely it is to be accepted into a dictionary.

"So does that mean that we should start using "Humpday" so that we can get it accepted?" asked the student.

You can try, but you'll still need to be able to spell Wednesday correctly on your next spelling test.

academic (Adj) — pertaining to schools, colleges, and universities

confidently (adv.) — with certainty, with sureness

hump day (expr.) — Wednesday; used in the context of climbing a hill to get through a difficult week; being "over the hump" of the work week.

Norse (proper noun) — from ancient Scandinavia and its people (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and sometimes Finland)

recess (N) — break time; play time

The more, the more (expr.) — as one thing changes, the other thing also changes at a relative rate

 

 

 

 

Edit the gerund and infinitive clauses (nonfinite clauses).

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 21-30" button.

 

21.
Change to passive (omit the "agent"): I recall the teacher asking me to spell the fourth day of the week. 


22.
Change to an earlier time: You seem to forget a few letters.


23.
Correct the verb form: I began say the letters again, "W-H-E-N-S-D-A-Y".


24.
Change to passive (earlier time): We seem to have simplified the pronunciation but not the spelling.


25.
Change "plan" to "plan on": But for now, plan to spell it like this," she said.


26.
Change to an earlier time: I don't recall seeing that word in the dictionary.


27.
Change to passive (omit the "agent"): Dictionaries must formally accept a word before we can confidently use it in business and academic writing.


28.
Change to passive (omit the "agent"):  As people begin to accept a word, it starts to appear in writing—newspapers, magazines and books—and in speech—everyday conversation, newscasts, and lectures.


29.
Change to future passive time:  The more frequently a word occurs, the more likely it is to be accepted into a dictionary.


30.
Change to passive: You can try, but you'll still need to be able to spell Wednesday correctly on your next spelling test.