Finite and Non-Finite Verbs

Finite and Non-Finite Verbs

1. Introduction:

Finite verbs hold significant importance in English grammar as they are responsible for conveying actions, states, or conditions within a given sentence, thus playing a pivotal role in linguistic expression. They convey essential information and show agreement with the subject in terms of number and person. Within the scope of this article, we shall examine the essence of finite verbs, look at their diverse forms and tenses, and shed light on their importance in the construction of grammatically-correct and meaningful sentences.

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2. What are finite verbs?

A finite verb is a verb form which has a subject and shows tense, person (first, second or third) and number (singular/plural). A finite verb can be the main verb in a sentence. A finite verb describes an action whereas non-finite verb form plays the role of other parts of speech.

2.1 Characteristics of Finite Verbs:

Finite verbs are verbs that carry the main action or state in a sentence and are limited by the subject and tense. They exhibit specific features that distinguish them from non-finite verbs. Firstly, finite verbs show agreement with the subject in terms of person and number. Secondly, finite verbs change their form to indicate the time when an action or state takes place. Additionally, finite verbs can be modified by adverbs and can take on different forms such as simple, progressive, or perfect. Check the image below.

Difference between finite and non-finite verbs

2.2 Forms and Tenses of Finite Verbs:

Finite verbs come in various forms and tenses, allowing for precise expression of actions and states. The most common forms of finite verbs include the base form, which is used in present simple tense for singular subjects, and the third-person singular form, which adds an "-s" or "-es" ending. Other forms include the past tense, present participle, and past participle. Tenses such as present simple, past simple, present perfect, and future tense provide further nuances in describing the timing and completion of actions.

2.3 Subject-Verb Agreement:

One of the essential aspects of finite verbs is their agreement with the subject in terms of number and person. Singular subjects require singular finite verbs, while plural subjects require plural finite verbs. This agreement ensures grammatical correctness and clarity in sentences. For example, "She sings beautifully" (singular subject) versus "They sing beautifully" (plural subject). Subject-verb agreement helps maintain the harmony and coherence of a sentence.

Moreover, subject-verb agreement ensures grammatical accuracy, avoiding confusion or ambiguity. Understanding the usage of finite verbs is essential for building grammatically correct and coherent sentences in both spoken and written English.

2.4 Finite verb examples:

The following are some examples.

  • My school opens at eight.

  • James eats pasta everyday.

  • I went to school very late yesterday.

  • She washed her dress yesterday.

  • He played the piano.

  • She always goes to school by bus.

  • The sun rises in the east.

  • Cats like milk.

3. What are Non-Finite Verbs?

Non-finite verbs play a significant role in English grammar, offering a wide range of uses and adding versatility to sentence construction. Unlike finite verbs, which indicate tense, number, and person, non-finite verbs do not possess these characteristics. Instead, they serve various functions within a sentence, allowing for greater flexibility in expressing actions, states, and concepts.

A non-finite verb has no subject, tense, person and number. A non-finite verb also called verbal. They cannot act as a verb; they act as nouns, adjectives and adverbs instead. There are three types of non-finite verbs: gerunds, participles and infinitives.

3.1 Using non-finite verbs:

The following three sections illustrate the application of non-finite verbs as gerunds, infinitives, and participles.

3.1.1 As Gerunds:

  • Walking is good for your health.

  • Learning is very important.

  • Cooking is a good hobby.

3.1.2 As Infinitives:

  • I want to play in the garden.

  • She wants to learn how to play the guitar.

  • We need to buy groceries from the supermarket.

  • He plans to visit his grandparents next weekend.

  • They hope to find a solution to the problem.

  • My sister likes to read books before going to bed.

3.1.3 As Participles:

  • Swimming is my favorite sport.

  • She enjoys dancing in her free time.

  • Running helps me stay fit and healthy.

  • I love singing in the shower.

  • His hobby is painting beautiful landscapes.

  • Eating ice cream on a hot day is refreshing.

  • I avoid driving during rush hour.

  • The children were excited about going to the fair.

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See Also:

English Grammar: