Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs


Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

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Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

Mind the verbs in the following expressions:

Charles is a boy.

I worked hard.

Rajesh was a pilot.

She goes to Christ School.

The italicised verbs in the above sentences have completed the meaning of their Predicates. Even they have changed their forms in accordance with their respective Subject and its Number and Person. These verbs are Finite Verbs.

The verb which completes the sense of its Predicate and changes its forms after the Number and Person of its Subject is called a Finite Verb.

Generally the Verbs in the Indicative, Imperative and Subjective Mood are Finite Verbs.

Now mind the verbs in the following sentences:

To steal is a sin.

This house is to let.

Seeing is believing.

It was a sleeping dog.

Walking is a good exercise.

The verbs in the above sentences have kept their sense incomplete (as verbs). Instead, they function as the name of some actions.  They do not change their forms after their respective Subject, Number and Person. They are called Non-Finite Verbs.

Generally, Infinitives, Gerunds and Participles fall within the purview of Non-finite Verbs.

Let us discuss them in detail as under:

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

1. Infinitives

Mind the verbs in the following sentences:

He is ready to go there.

To err is human.

To see is to believe.

It is time to play.

In the above sentences, the verbs: to go, to err, to see, and to play have expressed the name of some actions. Such verbs are called Infinitives.

If we mind well, we see that these Infinitives have been formed by adding ‘to’ before the verbs. They are not functioning as the Principal Verbs in the sentences. The word ‘to’ used before each verb in the above sentences is not a Preposition. ‘To’ is merely used as an indicator of the Infinitives. None of them has changed its form after its Subject, Number and Person. 

Infinitives are of two kinds: 1. Simple Infinitives and 2. Gerundial Infinitives. 

Let us talk about them as follows:

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

(a) Simple Infinitives

Simple Infinitives are used as Nouns. They function as:

(i) The Subject of a Verb:

To read a newspaper is a good habit.

To walk is a good exercise.

To drink water in the morning is good for health.

To waste our time is bad.

To blush is a modesty.

(ii) The Object to a Verb:

You should try to remind it.

The teacher advised me to take regular exercise.

He likes to play.

She began to cry.

Rana wants to go.

I shall try to do that.

(iii) The Subjective Complement of a Verb:

My hobby is to read.

His aim is to make friendship with his colleagues.

To see is to believe.

She seems to be diligent.

He appears to be honest.

(iv) The Object of a Preposition:

Hira is about to win.

He cannot but to deny the offer.

We are about to go.

He is about to weep.

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

(b) Gerundial Infinitives

Gerundial Infinitives express Purpose, Cause or Result. They function as:

(i) An Adjective:

Let me have a book to read.

This is a car to sell.

Give him a mango to eat.

This is a pen to write.

(ii) An Adverb to a Verb:

He cried to meet his friend.

We went to enjoy sports.

They came to see us.

(iii) An Adverb to an Adjective:

The boy is happy to meet his parents.

We are glad to find you.

Seema is slow to walk.

(iv) To Qualify a Sentence:

To tell the truth, he is not guilty.

To speak the truth, I am happy to meet you.

To express the truth, his heart is full of kindness.

There are some Characteristics of Infinitives, as:

(i)The Infinitives can take an Object of it own:

He wishes to present us a book.

I like to learn Greek.

(ii) The Infinitive like any other Verb can take an Adverb to modify it:

We want to get it fine.

He likes to visit us again.

You want to read attentively.

In some sentences, if an Adverb or Adverb Phrase is used between the indicators of Infinitive (i.e. ‘to’), then the Infinitive goes split. Such Infinitive is called Split Infinitive. Examples:

He requested me to quickly go there.

He decided to intimately follow his leader. 

But it is better to write these sentences as follows:

He requested me quickly to go there.

He decided to follow his leader intimately.

In some expressions, the indicator of Infinitive (to) is omitted, as:

We saw Tapash (to) cross the bridge.

They help me (to) do the work well.

He made me (to) drink the cup of milk.

The use of such infinitive is called Bare Infinitive.

In the following cases the indicator of Infinitive (to) is not used:

(i) In Active Voice the verbs like know, watch, behold, make, please, see, feel, need, let, bit, watch, dare etc. do not take the marker of Infinitive (to) after them:

We made her (to) sweep the room.

Please (to) do the sum.

Let me (to) have the pen.

Bid her (to) sit on the chair.

But in Passive Voice, all the verbs except only ‘let’ take the marker of Infinitive (to) after them.

He was bid to sit on the chair.

Rita was heard to say so.

But the verb ‘dare’ when used in an Affirmative sentence takes the marker of Infinitive after it:

She dared to do that.

We dared to challenge their feat.

(ii) Some special Finites like shall, should, will, would, can, could, may and might do not take the marker of Infinitive ‘to’ after them.

We can do it.

You may come in.

He will meet us.

(iii) After the phrases ‘had better’ and ‘had rather’ the indicator of Infinitive (to) is not used:

We had better (to) give up smoking.

You had rather (to) accept this job.

(iv) The marker of Infinitive is not used after ‘then’ and also in the Past Tense after the word ‘but’:

He is stronger enough to fight than (to) play.

He did nothing but (to) read.

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

2. Gerund

Mind the following sentences:

1. Swimming is a good exercise.

2. Reading is a good amusement.

In the above sentence no. 1 the word swimming is formed of the verb ‘swim’ and in the sentence no. 2   Reading is formed of the verb ‘read’. Both are followed by respective finite verbs and function as Nouns. These are Gerunds.

A Verb when taking ‘ing’ after it, becomes a Subject of a Finite Verb and functions as a Noun is called a Gerund.

A Gerund and a Present Participle have identical forms as both are formed by adding ‘ing’ with them. Bear in mind that a Gerund is a Verbal Noun as it functions as a Noun and a Present Participle is a Verbal Adjective as it qualifies a Noun.

Sita likes dancing (Gerund)

Dancing along the road, they went ahead. (Present Participle)

Gerund may be used as:

(i) Subject of a Verb:

Reading is a good habit.

Seeing is believing.

Playing is a good exercise.

Collecting Greeting Cards is my hobby.

(ii) Object of a Transitive Verb:

He likes delivering lecture.

I like drinking coffee.

He abhors meeting people.

(iii) Complement of a Verb:

What I like is reading.

He seems going there.

(iv) Absolutely in an Independent Clause:

Reading being my favourite activity, I frequent the District Library.

(v) Object to a Preposition:

Sita is fond of singing.

We are eager of reading.

He is desirous of smoking.

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

3. Participles

Mind the italicised words in the following sentences:

It is a singing bird.

A rolling stone gathers no moss.

A burnt child dreads the fire.

The italicised words i.e. singing and rolling in the above sentence no. 1 and 2 are formed of verbs ‘sing’ and ‘roll’  by adding ‘ing’ after them. Each of them has functioned both as a verb and as an adjective. In sentence no 3. the italicised word ‘burnt’ is formed of the verb ‘burn’ by adding -t after it and it works as an Adjective. These are Participles.

A Verb that is partly a verb and partly an Adjective is called a Participle.

There are three kinds of Participles: 1. Present Participle, 2. Past Participle and 3. Perfect Participle. Let us illustrate them as below:

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

1. The Present Participle

A Present Participle is formed by adding ‘ing’ after the present form of a verb to make Continuous Tense. Examples:

I am reading. 

The dog is barking. 

They are working in the field.

A Present Participle is an Adjective while it qualifies a Noun or Pronoun as in the following example:

A laughing boy comes here.

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

2. The Past Participle

The Past Participle refers to the third form of a verb. It ends in -en, -n, -d, -ed or -t.  It is used:

(i) To form Perfect Tense with the suitable Helping Verb (have, has, had):

He has done the work.

We have performed our respective duty.

(ii) To form the Passive Voice with the suitable form of Verb “Be” (am, is, are, was, were):

They were tired.

I was pleased at his behaviour.

He was mocked at by them.

(iii) Attributively, Predicatively and Object Complement, like the Present Participle:

The burnt child was crying. (Attributive)

The girl seems inattentive.( Predicative)

They found the gate closed. (Object Complement)

(iv) Like an Adverb to modify a Verb:

He left away displeased.

(v) To form an Adjectival Phrase:

The goods once sold, cannot be taken back.

(vi) To join two sentences:

Having completed our works we returned home. (We completed our works. We returned home.)

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

3. The Perfect Participle

The Perfect Participle is formed by using ‘having’ before the third form of a verb:

Having bathed, we went out.

Having rested, they began to dance.

Having completed the work, we drank soup.

While using Participle, mind the following Rules to avoid errors:

Rule 1.  A participle is an Adjective and as it is an Adjective it must be related to some Noun or Pronoun which it qualifies. It should never be left unattached:

Climbing up the tree, he saw a tower. 


He, climbing up the tree, saw a tower. (but not ‘Climbing up the tree, a tower was seen). Thus:

Entering the chamber, I lighted the candle. (but not ‘Entering the chamber, the lamp was lighted.’)

Rule 2. With the Participle ‘Being’ when used for weather, season etc. the neutral ‘It’ should be used. For example:

It being a rainy day, the office was closed.

It being very hot, we remained within the doors.

Rule 3. It is not necessary to relate such Participles as considering, taking, regarding, speaking, owing to etc. to any Noun or Pronoun. They must be left unrelated:

Speaking truly, the house is on the top of the hill.

Regarding his ability, we have no doubt.

Rule 4. A Present Participle should not be used to express an action that can not  and does not, take place at the same time as the action denoted by the finite verb in a sentence. In such cases, the Indefinite Tense must be used instead of the Participle. For example:

We started for Cochin on Sunday and arrived there on Tuesday.  (but not, ‘We started for Cochin on Sunday, arriving there on Tuesday.’)

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs


Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

1. Correct the following sentences:

(i) I hope that you will be successful to get the job. (ii) You are requested to kindly grant me a leave for three days. (iii) You need not to ask such a question. (iv) Leaving Madras on Monday, he arrived in Calcutta on the next day. (v) You should try to clearly to understand these rules.  (vi) I am to please as many people as possible. (vii) I intended to have been present. (viii) He did not dare to say such a thing. (ix) Going up the street an elephant was seen. (x) He seems to enjoy his stay at Kali Mandir.

2. Complete the following sentences, by adding a Gerund or an Infinitive (whichever correct):

(i) My Parents never approved ………….. (ii) My mother dislikes ………. (iii) Most children enjoy …………… (iv) You will succeed if you keep on …………. (v) He was punished …………………. (vi) The President objected ……………….. (vii) We were waiting ………….. (viii)My parents are not accustomed to ………. (ix)My child likes ………………….. (x) He is fond of…………………. (xi) Would you mind ……….? (xi) I am sorry …………..

3. Rewrite the following sentences using the neuter ‘It’:

(i) To read your handwriting is impossible. (ii) To hear the sound of the lake is very amusing. (iii)To climb Everest is very difficult. (iv) To call people’s name is not polite. (v) To betray one’s friend is disgraceful. (vi) To bribe a man is an offence. 

4. Join each of the following pair of sentences, using a Participle:

(i) We reached the station. We purchased the tickets.

(ii) He saw the policeman. He took to his heels.

(iii) The rain stopped.  We went for playing cricket.

(iv) We arrived in the port. We went to the sea shore.

(v)The boy heard the loud cry. He was startled.

5. Rewrite the following sentences using the correct form (‘ing’ or ‘ to’ – verb form) of the verbs given within brackets:

(i) I hate (get up) early and dress in the dark.

(ii) The manager let us (watch) the actor’s rehearsal.

(iii) I had to ask the baby (stop) play.

(iv) Please do not talk of (go) before (see) my photo album.

(v) I would like (take) more English lesson.

6. Find out which of the words ending in -ing in the following sentences are Gerund and which are Present Participle:

(i) Swimming is a good exercise. (ii) I saw Shayam driving a car. (iii) Swimming in the pond, he suddenly saw a fish. (iv) Watching at a cloudless sky is his favourite pastime. (v) Seeing is believing. 0 0 0

Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs

N.B.  The article ‘Finite Verbs and Non-finite Verbs’ originally belongs to the book ‘School English Grammar Part- I‘ by Menonim Menonimus.

Books of Composition by M. Menonimus:

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  3. Note Making
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  5. Notice Writing
  6. Passage Comprehension
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  13. School Essays Part-II
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