Finite and Non-Finite Verbs

Finite and Non-Finite Verbs

As you read, subject and verb abide by an agreement related to number, person and tenses. Some verbs are bounded to follow this agreement and some others do not.On the basis of this limitation, verbs are classified as Finite Verb and Non-finite Verbs.

Finite Verb

Finite Verbs are those verbs which are limited by number and person of the subject and which change their form when tense is changed.

1. Limitation by Numbers

When the number of the subject is changed the verb also changes its number.
For example;
1. The child makes a noise.
2 Children make a noise
In Sentence 1, the verb ‘makes‘ is in singular number as its subject the child is in singular
In Sentence 2. the number of verb changed from singular form (makes) to plural form
(make) as the subject (children) is in plural form.

2. Limitation by Person

The verb of a sentence changes according to the person of the subject.

For example;

1. I draw picture of a mango.

2. He draws a picture of mango.

Here, when the subject changed from first person (I) to third person (He), the verb also
changed from draw to draws.

3. Limitation by Tense

The verb of a sentence changes according to the tense of the sentence.
For example;
1. Children make noise.
2. Children made noise.
In Sentence 1, the tense is present indefinite tense and its verb is make.
In Sentence 2, the tense changes from present indefinite tense to past indefinite tense Hence, the verb also changed from make to made.

Non-Finite Verbs

Non-Finite verbs are those which are not bound or limited by number and person of the
subject. They do not change their form according to the tense of the sentence
For examples;
1 I Like To sing a song.
2. We Like to sing a song.
3. She Likes to sing a song.
4. I liked to sing a song.
5. We liked to sing song.
6. She liked to sing a song.
In the above sentences, you will notice that the verb ‘sing’ did not change in any case  i.e. according to the number or person of the subject or the tense of the sentence.

Kinds of Non-Finite Verbs

Non finite verbs are of three kinds: Infinitive, Participle and Gerund.
1. Infinitive (to +V1 Form)
An Infinitive is a non finite verb that expresses action. It is generally preceded by preposition to. An infinitive preceded by to is also called a Full Infinitive or To Infinitive.
For example;
1. I want to go Delhi.
2. They Decided to buy apples.
Another form of infinitive is when it is used without to. It only consists of the verb.
This form is called Bare Infinitive.
For example;
1. I saw him cross the road.
2. Help him pay the fine.
Barn Infinitives are used after the verbs feel, have, hear, know, make, notice, see,watch etc.
These are also used after modals, such as can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, wold, ought t, used to, must, need, dare.
For example;
1. He felt the floor shake.
2. They saw her leave.
3. Can you come in?
4. You must finish this work in time.
At times, to is used without an infinite verb, i.e. the verb is omitted and only to is used as a substitute for the infinitive. It is called an Anaphoric to as it mentions the earlier verb.
For example;
1. Would you like to join us? (Full infinitive)
2. Yes, I would love to.  (‘Anaphoric to because ‘join us’ is omitted.)
When an adverb is put in between to and the verb, the infinitive splits into two parts. In this case, it is called Split Infinitive.
For example; I Request you to kindly agree to my proposal, (‘kindly’ is put in between ‘to’ and ‘agree’.)

Uses of Infinitives

1. Infinitives function as subject or object, or as subject complement.
For example;
1. To err is human.  (subject ‘to err‘)
2. He does not like to fight.  (object ‘to fight’)
3. Her aim is to become a doctor. (subject complement ‘to become’)
2. Infinitives are used to combine sentences or in place of so that.
For example;
(a) He went to Agra. He wanted to see the Taj Mahal,.
He went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
(b) He worked hard so that he succeeded.
 He worked too hard to succeed


A Participle is a verbal adjective word. It is used both as verb and as an adjective.

For example;

1. I saw a moving train.
Here, moving is a verb but it describes the noun train. Therefore, moving is a participle.

Use of Participle

1. Participles functions as adjectives.
For example;
(a) A moving train is one that moves.
2. Participle functions as subject complement.
For example;
(a) The school trip was exciting.
3. Participle functions as object complement as well.
For example;
(a) She kept us waiting.
4. Participles help to combine the sentences.
For example;
(a) She put on the watch. It was gifted by her mother.
She put on the watch gifted by her mother.
5. Perfect participle is also used to show completion of the first action before the second
For example;
Having finished my home-work, I went to see the movie.
6. Perfect participle is also used to combine the sentences.
For example;
I finished my work, I went to school.

3. Gerund

Gerund is a verbal noun word. It is used both as verb and a noun. It ends in ‘ing‘.
For example;
1. Drinking is a bad habit.
2. Singing is her favourite pastime.
3. Walking is an effective exercise.
The highlighted words are formed from the verbs drink, sing and walk respectively but are used as noun. They answer the question what or who.
Uses of Gerund
Gerunds are used as follows:
1. A subject of a verb. For example;
    Walking is a great exercise,
2. An object of a verb. For example;
(a) He likes walking.
(b) The team is known for good fielding.
3. Object of a preposition. For example;
    She is fond of singing.
4. Complement of a verb.For example;
   Teaching him is wasting time.
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