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Non-Finite verbs [Verbals]: Infinitives & Absolutives

that's infinitive verbsIn the last couple of posts I’ve been looking at verb participles. They are a verb form that although called past & present actually have little to do with tense/time and are mainly associated with verb aspect – the extent to which an action is completed. When they are not playing in the role of main (finite) verb of a sentence they are called non-finite or infinite verbs as they aren't 'limited' by tense. In other words, a non-finite verb is any verb that is not the main (finite) verb of the sentence.

As such they tend to act or function as verbal adjectives and are thus often called 'Verbals'. Verbal adjectives act like verbs - in that they form a verb phrase, possibly taking objects and other dependents and modifiers of verbs - however that verb phrase then plays the role of an attributive adjective in the larger sentence.

In Pali they can be divided into two groups:

Participles form the declinable group - taking case like nouns. In this post we’ll look at the indeclinable types of which there are two:

And also for completeness mention some nouns acting as verbs and verbs acting as nouns i.e. the agent noun, abstract nouns and action nouns.

Infinitives 

In English infinitives are the ‘to’ expression of verbs. The infinitive form of ‘play’ is ‘to play’, ‘go’, ‘to go’ etc. The infinitive expresses the sense ‘for the purpose of’, or ‘in order to’. They imply a wish or desire ‘to do something’.
John left home to play football.
The infinitive in Pali is usually formed by adding the suffix -(i)tuṃ to the present stem or, in historical forms, to the verbal root. Other infinitive suffixes, inherited from Vedic are: –tave, -tuye, -tāye, -tase . However the suffix -tuṁ is by far the most common.

Like English they are mainly used to express purpose - being similar in meaning to the dative case regarding purpose.
pañhaṃ
pucchituṃ
āgacchanti
acc
sgl
male

infin
pres, act
pl

3rd pers

a question
to ask
they approach
they approach (in order) to ask a question

buddhānaṃ
sāsanaṃ
manasi
kātuṃ
dat/gen
pl
male

nom/acc
Sgl
neut

loc
Sgl
male

infin
the buddhas’
teaching
in mind
to do
to do in mind (to give thought to)
the teaching of the Buddhas

Infinitives can be used in either active or passive sentences without changing form. To translate the active is trivial eg. pucchituṃ ‘to ask’, but with the passive occurrence we need in English to substitute the past participle eg. ‘to be asked’ in order to maintain the passive voice.

Absolutives [Gerund]

The absolutive verb form is sometimes referred to as a gerund. [This is a little confusing as traditional English grammars also use this term but in a different sense! (an action noun)] Also the absolutive/gerund shouldn’t be confused with a gerundive or for that matter the absolute clause constructions.

Absolutives can be compared to the present participle. Where the present participle indicates an action that occurs at the same time as the main verb, the absolutive verb form indicates an action that came before or along side the main verb. Eg.
Having ridden his bike, Jack had a puncture.
In Pali they take the ending –tvā, -tvāna sometimes -āya or -ya (cca) and being indeclinable take no case, number or gender. The suffix -tvā is the most common and -ya is generally only used with verbs which are prefixed.

It is typical to translate the absolutive verb as:
having done x…" or "when he had x …" "after he had x … 
[If you’ve been following this blog then you’ve already seen a few that I’ve glossed over].
yānā
paccorohitvā
pattiko’va
ārāmaṃ
pāvisi
abl
sgl
neut

absol
nom
sgl
male

acc
sgl
m

aor, act
sgl

3rd pers

from a carriage
having alighted
on foot
park
he entered
having alight from a carriage, he entered the park on foot
The agent of the absolutive clause, like with most Pali clauses, is the same as that of the main verb.

Having said the absolutive verb indicates an action that came before the main verb eg. "Having done this, he then did that."; this is the commonest use,:but there are constructions in which the absolutive refers to some ongoing action that is simultaneous with the main verb.
For example,
she walks holding a parasol
in Pali would be
sā chattaṃ gahetvā gacchati
literally,
she, having held a parasol, walks
It can also be rendered by a past tense verb followed by the conjunction "and": Eg. gantva, "he went and...". The absolutive is extensively used in Pali, in this type of connective construction, and practically does away with the conjunctional equivalent to the English "and" connecting two phrases or clauses.

Absolutive verbs usually appear at the end of their clause which makes them helpful in parsing sentence structure. It’s typical for a Pali sentence to be string of clauses each with a separate patient, ending with a participle, all preceding the main clause. In this way, the same agent is performing a group or series of actions.
yathābhūtaṃ
viditvā
kāma’taṇhaṃ
pahāya
adverb
absol

acc
sgl
fem
absol

as it is, (reality)
having known
thirst & want
having left
having understood the reality, & having let go thirst & want

kāma’pariḷāhaṃ
paṭivinodetvā
vigata’pipāso
ajjhattaṃ
vūpasanta’citto
viharāmi
acc
sgl
fem


absol
nom
sgl
male

adverb/adj
nom
sgl
male


pres, act
sgl

1st pers

burning want
having driven out
being without thirst
personally,
inwardly,
calmed heart
I abide
having driven out burning want, and being without thirst, I inwardly abide heart subdued

 Agent nouns

An agent noun (not to be confused with an action noun) is a noun formed from a verb and refers to the ‘doer’ of the action. In English, such nouns are often formed by adding the suffix ‘-er’ or '-or'; e.g. 
leader" "speaker" "deceiver" "teacher" "assessor
In Pali the suffix –(i)tar is added to the verb root, and -aka, -ika, -in, -vi(n) to verbs in compounds. As example: 
√kar -> kattar, kāraka, kārika, kārin  => a doer
√bhās -> bhāsitar, bhāsaka, => a speaker
√dass -> dassāvin => one who sees

Agent-noun endings are sometimes combined with causative stems:
paññā + āpe + tar => Paññāpetar = one who causes wisdom. 

These are then declined like nouns taking case, number & gender.
saggaṃ
gacchanti
dāyakā
acc
sgl
male

pres,act
pl

3rd pers

nom
pl
male

place of happiness
they go
givers
givers go to heaven
Since agent nouns representing an action, often take an object of that action. In Pali, this object is placed either in the accusative or in the genitive case.
abhijānāsi
no
tvaṃ
mahārāja
imaṃ
pañhaṃ
aññe
samaṇa+brāhmaṇe
pucchitā
pres,act
sgl

2nd pers

indec
nom/acc
sgl
m,n,f

voc
sgl
male

acc
sgl
m,n,f

acc
sgl
male

acc
pl
male

acc
pl
male

nom
sgl
male

remember
not
you
great king
this
question
other
recluses & brahmins
an asker
(do) you not remember great king
this question
other recluses & brahmins
an asker
(do) you not remember, great king, (being) an asker of this question to other recluses & brahmins
In this example there is a double accusative as is common with verbs of speech indicating 'what was said' and 'to whom'. English tends to use the genitive for the object of agent nouns. Eg. ‘he is an asker of questions’,  ‘He is a giver of gifts’ etc.

Abstract nouns

Abstract nouns describe a quality rather than a tangible object. They include emotions and states of being as well as ideas & concepts. In English they often end in –ness, -tion, -ity, -ment etc.  

In Pali they are formed from nouns or adjectival stems by adding the suffixes: -a, -ava, -ka, –tta, -ttana, -tā & -yā.
garu -> gārava => heaviness
manuñña ->  manuññaka => loveliness
They then decline like nouns in –a/ā.

Action-nouns are a type of abstract noun formed from a verbal root.

Action nouns

Action nouns are almost the reverse of agent nouns; denoting the general idea of an event without referring to an agent and are thus similar to the infinitive in sense ie. 
Seeing is the function of the eyes.
They are verb form, often those in –ana, -a, -nā, -taṃ, -tā,  which are used as verbal nouns in a sentence.  Being nouns, they decline  taking case etc. See Warder pg.138 and Perniola pg. 381 for more.


Next we'll continue our look at Subordinate clauses in Pali

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