• The following sections of A Comprehensive Grammar of The English Language (Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartik, Longman, London & New York, 1985) were consulted in preparing this entry:
Finite verb phrases
Simple and complex verb phrases
Simple and complex finite verb phrases
1. The authors of CGEL point out that the formation of complex verb phrases involves “telescoping.” As they put it: “combinations of the basic types A, B, etc, form structures in which the nonfinite verb of the first construction also functions as the auxiliary of the second, and so forth.” In other words, the four basic constructions all contain two words and the second of these is always a non-finite verb. When two of the basic constructions are combined, the second element of the first acts both as an indicator of which type of construction is being used (modal or perfective etc) but also as the auxiliary of the following construction; the two functions are “telescoped” to save space just as the sections of a telescope can be nested inside each other to save space. This is why even though each of the basic constructions has two elements, when all four types are used in verb phrases of the form ABCD, there are only five, not ten, words in the phrase.
2. Although phrases of the type ABCD are perfectly grammatical, they are rare. This is presumably partly because the situations for which they are appropriate do not arise frequently, partly because of their complexity, and partly because the similarity (or identity) of the pronunciation of “been” and “being” can cause confusion even for native speakers.