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  13 infinite verb forms

The expression infinite verb forms sound at first glance like irrelevant theory, but that's not the case. If you ever wonder why the same novel is so different in size in the different languages (the German version always the thickest one, the English version always the thinnest one and the versions of the romance languages something in between) you get the answer in this chapter. English has the most powerful infinite forms (present participle, gerund, infinitive and past participle) of all languages, that's why the thinnest version of a novel is always the English one. In German the use of these structures is very restricted and therefore the German version of a novel is always the thickest one. Almost everything in live has pro and cons. To the power of the infinite forms correspond their complexity and that's why this chapter is so long.

Before we go into the details let's see what is a infinite form.

infinite: to say, saying, said
finite: says, said

The infinite form informs us about the action, but doesn't inform us when this action / event has happened nor who has performed the action. The finite form informs us when this action has been performed (says = present, said = past) and who has performed the action (third person singular, he / she / it).

Obviously an infinite form alone doesn't make any sense because it just describes an action, but nothing more. There must be a finite verb which informs us who has performed the action and when.

Having finished the letter he submitted it.

Because the infinite form (having finished) doesn't inform us who has performed the action and when it has been performed we need a finite verb (submitted). In general, the infinite verb shares his subject with the finite verb and so we know that the third person singular masculine had finished the letter. The anchor on the timeline is the finite verb as well and so we know that in a period of time before he submitted the letter he had finished it.

In detail things are much more complicated as we are going to see in the next chapters.

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