Definition of catenative in English:


Syllabification: cat·e·na·tive
Pronunciation: /ˈkatəˌnātiv, ˈkatnˌātiv


  • Denoting a verb that governs a nonfinite form of another verb, for example, like in I like swimming.
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    • 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.


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  • A catenative verb.
    More 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.

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