Finite and Nonfinite Clauses
|As a working definition,
let us say that clauses contain at least a verb phrase:
As these examples show, clauses can also contain many other elements, but for now we will concentrate on the VP. We have already seen that verbs (and therefore the VPs that contain them) are either FINITE or NONFINITE, so we can use this distinction to classify clauses. Clauses are either finite or nonfinite.
Finite verb phrases carry tense, and the clauses containing them are FINITE CLAUSES:
These are NONFINITE CLAUSES.
Matrix clauses are always finite, as in  and . However, they may contain nonfinite subordinate clauses within them. For example:
Here we have a finite matrix clause -- its main verb loves has the present tense form. Within it, there is a nonfinite subordinate clause to play the piano -- its main verb play has the to-infinitive form.
On the other hand, subordinate clauses can be either finite or nonfinite:
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