In the sentence below. How many finites are there?

'Interviewers ask respondents if they have been the victim of a crime in the past 12 months; if they have, respondents provide information about the nature of the incidents, including the race and ethnicity of the offenders.'

The first part of the sentence is straight forward enough.

Interviewers - subject; ask - finite.

After this however I'm a little confused. For example does 'have been' in 'if they have been the victim' qualify as a finite, as the meaning here is conditional.

  • Could you tell us if this question related to part of a language assignment or test? If so, it is not a suitable question for ELU. But have you considered whether the word ‘if’ is only used in conditional sentences? If you do, you will find it has another use. – Tuffy Mar 1 at 16:31
  • @Tuffy OK, no. – Black and White Mar 1 at 16:51
  • 1
    The only non-finite clause is "been the victim of a crime in the past 12 months", which functions as catenative complement of "have". – BillJ Mar 1 at 16:53
  • Only so far as it furthers my understanding of the issue. I was unsure about how to title the query and yes the thought did occur. In relation to 'been' - I would agree with @remarkl (if i am reading this correctly) that 'have' and 'been' are interdependent and combine to form a meaning that brings us up to a time close to the present. – Mrpeech Mar 1 at 19:27

Replace the first "if," - which is at best lazy but probably just plain wrong - with "whether." The result is a straightforward subordinate clause, the subject of which is "they" and the (finite) verb in which is "have been." The "have been" has tense, person, and number, which are the attributes of a finite verb.

After the semicolon, "have" and "provide" also have tense, number and person and are, therefore, finite.

In this sentence, the only non-finite verb is "including."

  • You are right that the first ‘if’ introduces an indirect question and not the protasis of a conditional. However, there is nothing wrong with this usage. A quick check on Oxford and Merriam Webster online dictionaries will show no sign that there is anything wrong with this use. After all, this app is all about the USAGE of the English Language. – Tuffy Mar 1 at 17:06
  • @Tuffy If you are saying that usage is as usage does, I can't disagree. But I believe we can advocate against entropic devolution of the language. "If" for "whether" bespeaks a sloppy mind and an inattention to detail that casts shade on everything else in the piece it infects. Context can rescue all sorts of linguistic delicts, but I choose to rage against the dying of precision. Chaq'un a de gustibus, or something like that. – remarkl Mar 1 at 17:25
  • @remarkl Well, the use has a history going back to Beowolf (according to OED). Originally it was “if that...”. in the middle ages. Then, in 1611 “And he sent forth a dove from him to see if the waters were abated from off of the face of the ground.” [Genesis 8-8]. So lazy it is not. Other languages seem to connect conditionals and indirect questions in this way. In French ‘si’ corresponds with ‘if’ in both senses. So does αν (an=if) in modern Greek. – Tuffy Mar 1 at 18:43
  • "Including" is not a verb but a preposition. The only non-finite verb is the past participle "been", which heads the non-finite clause "been the victim of a crime in the past 12 months", functioning as complement of "have". – BillJ Mar 1 at 18:45
  • @BillJ I don't see it that way. I see "including" as a participle modifying "information," and I see "have been" as a single, finite verb with tense, number, and person. It is the third person plural present perfect tense of "to be." If "is" is a finite verb, then "have been" is a finite verb. Every periphrastic verb can be treated as a verb and a participle. That's how certain tenses in certain moods are formed. But to declare the participle element a non-finite verb seems to me a bridge too far. – remarkl Mar 1 at 22:22

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