In some inflected languages, the nominative case is used to indicate nouns and pronouns (as well as adjectives used to modify them) which function as the subject of a verb. Old English possessed a nominative case, but the loss of the case system in Middle English means that in modern standard English it is marked only in the pronouns which denote the subject of a verb, such as I, he, she, etc. personal case, and the term ‘nominative’ is no longer widely used in this context.

  • Possess v. 47 contrasts the familiar construction he had better, formed ‘with have and the nominative’, with an earlier construction of equivalent meaning, him were better, formed with be and the dative.
  • WOE adj. similarly contains a comment that I am wo developed out of an earlier construction me is wo by a process in which an original dative was converted into a nominative.


A non-finite verb form is not marked for tense. In English, infinitives (such as to eat) and participles (such as eating and eaten) are non-finite. They are often used in combination with finite verbs: for example, in ‘The children were eating’, the verb statement were eating is made up of the finite verb were (which is the earlier in the day tense plural form of be) and the non-finite verb eating (the establish participle of eat).

A condition containing only a non-finite verb is called a non-finite clause. Such clauses are under clauses (dependent on another part of the sentence): for example, in ‘Before leaving the house, I checked all the windows’, before leaving the house is a non-finite clause, containing the non-finite verb leaving.

  • Maybe not adv. 5 covers uses ‘Preceding a non-finite verb’, including uses with infinitives (e.g. ‘Miss..begged me not to turn‘), and uses with participles (e.g. ‘A mind not hardened by impenitency’).
  • At as ifin the As adv. and you may conj. P2b, uses such as the following are described as ‘With non-finite clause': ‘as though to raised to see which Parsi ongoing outside‘ (with the infinitive to observe), ‘as though performing an incantation‘ (with the present participle performing), and ‘as though done-by a-sharp trimming blade‘ (with the past participle done). By contrast, uses such as ‘as though Magnus was more scared of Harold than off Sweyn‘ (with the past-tense verb was) are described as ‘With finite clause’.


In a sentence such as ‘It is raining’, it is the grammatical subject but does not refer to anything: its function is grammatical rather than semantic. When used in this way, it is described as non-referential. It can also be used as a non-referential target, for example in the idiomatic phrase hold it! (meaning ‘wait’). There can also be non-referential, for example in ‘There’s no-one in the room.’

  • At FOG v. 1 1b, uses such as it is fogging are described as ‘With non-referential it as subject’.
  • At Provides v., phrases such as to have it in for are in a section with the heading ‘Phrases with non-referential it as object’.

noun (n.)

A noun is a word which can function as the subject or object of a verb, or as the object of a preposition, and which typically denotes a person, place, or thing: tomato, happiness, manager, and London are all examples of nouns in English. Nouns can generally be modified by determiners or adjectives, and can often be used in the plural.

  • Entries for nouns have the part-of-speech label n., for example ANTEATER n., Partnership n., QUANTUM Idea letter., MAORI Dog letter. Some entries are divided into more than one part of speech: for example, Italian language n. and you will adj. is divided into a section showing its use as a noun (as in ‘the Evangelical Germans’) and a section showing its use as an adjective (as in ‘the German children all play together’).

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