Re: pronoun/antecedent agreement

Date: Thu Jun 06 1996 - 10:35:13 EDT

Marion here in reply to post by Philip Graber. His post he quoted me and

> In this discussion I asked about the subject of a
> finite verb. I contended that it must be in the nominative case. I was
> corrected by several who pointed out that the true subject was the ending
> of the verb (which functions as a pronoun).

This is not correct. The verb ending is not a pronoun, nor does it have
case. The verb ending does indicate person and number, which helps to
identify the subject in case it is not made explicit, which, unlike
English, often happens. You were correct that the subject of a finite
verb is in the nominative case WHEN THERE IS AN EXPLICIT SUBJECT.

Marion here (6-6-96)

Why is the only true when we have an explicit subject? Why not with an
elliptical subject?

Philip continues in the quote of me an his response:

> I then asked if this ending
> was truly a pronoun (some said "yes" some said "maybe" and some said
> I cited a couple of grammar books that said something like "the subject
> a finite verb is in the nominative case" and asked if this pronoun (the
> attached to the verb, i.e. the ending of the verb) was that which is in
> nominative case. Some said "yes" and some said "no."

The correct answer is that the verb ending is NOT a pronoun and it has no

Marion here again. I agree totally with this point. Philip continues:

> I stated that I had been taught that the subject of a finite verb was in
> the nominative case, the subject of an infinitive was in the accusative
> case {accusative of general reference}, and noted the "genitive absolute"
> construction (a genitive substantive with a genitive participle).

You are correct according to much traditional usage. I would add that,
technically speaking, non-finite verbs (such as infinitives and genitive
absolute constructions) do not have subjects. This terminological
sloppiness probably arises from the fact that these constructions are
normally translated by finite verbs with subjects. I would argue that
the accusative "subject" of the infinitive and the genitive absolute both
derive their cases from their relation to a finite verb.

Marion here again: I agree with this statement. Philip continues with
his quoting of me and his response:

> I was
> corrected for some of my terminology in these posts. This is the
> background of this discussion. In response to my posts several passages
> were cited which were used to prove that the subject of a finite verb is
> "NOT ALWAYS" in the nominative case. {Randy Leedy introduced Matthew
> (5-16-96),Carlton Winberry introduced Romans 8:28 (5-15-96), and some
> others introduced other passages (by private E-mail).}

As I recall, what these replies were intended to illustrate was not that
the subject of a finite verb is not always in the nominative case, but
that the antecedent of a pronoun is not always in the nominative case.
The confusion obviously arose from the mistaken identification of finite
verb endings with pronouns. A nominative case substantive is NOT the
antecedent of a finite verb ending and the latter is NOT a pronoun. The
subject of a finite verb is indeed nominative, when there is an explicit


Marion here again: I do not remember these responses in that context but
you can search the archives for yourself and see if you get that
impression. I am certainly willing to allow that explanation of this
matter. It is possible that I missed the context of these statements but
they were introduced when I cited Romans 8:26-27 (particularly verse 27) as
an example of application of these rules of grammar and syntax.

Yours in His service,

Marion R. Fox
Engineering Science Department
Rose State College
6420 SE 15th Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73110

4004 Twisted Trail Dr. SE
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73150-1910


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