Definition of catenative in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkatəˌnātiv/ Pronunciation: /ˈkatnˌātiv/


Denoting a verb that governs a nonfinite form of another verb, for example, like in I like swimming.
Example sentences
  • Not all catenative verbs are followed by infinitives as direct objects, but that's a story for another time.
  • Begin, continue, cease and start are specifically not referred to as catenative verbs.
  • In English you can take not only an adjunct but also a predicative complement or a nonfinite catenative complement and prepose them (pop them at the front of the clause) for a special effect.


A catenative verb.
Example sentences
  • The information on catenatives is adopted from Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln, 4th Edition.
  • It is assumed that the child understands these catenatives as single units, as opposed to understanding they are short for ‘going to,’ ‘want to,’ ‘have to,’ etc.
  • Thus the complementation of central and marginal modals, modal idioms, semi-auxiliaries and catenatives, as defined in CGEL, are taken as part of one clause and not regarded as subordinate.


Late 20th century: from Latin catena 'chain' + -ative.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cat·e·na·tive

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