If you’re learning English, you’ve probably come across the terms “finite” and “non-finite verbs.” These terms refer to the type of verb used in a sentence, and understanding the difference between the two is essential for clear communication. In this article, we’ll explore what finite and non-finite verbs are and how they are used in English grammar.
Knowing the difference between finite and non-finite verbs is important for understanding the structure of sentences in English. By identifying the type of verb used in a sentence, you can determine the tense and meaning of the sentence more accurately. In the following sections, we’ll explore finite and non-finite verbs in more detail and provide examples to help you better understand their usage.
Distinguishing Finite and Non-Finite Verbs
When it comes to understanding verbs, one of the most important distinctions to make is between finite and non-finite verbs. Simply put, finite verbs are those that have a definite relation with the subject or noun, while non-finite verbs do not change their form when the number or person of the subject changes. Here’s a closer look at the differences between these two types of verbs:
Finite verbs are used to indicate grammatical tense, person, and number. They are usually the main verb of a clause or sentence and can be changed according to the noun. Some examples of finite verbs include:
- She walks home.
- They are playing soccer.
- He will be attending the conference.
Finite verbs can be indicative of passive or active voice and also of number (singular or plural). They describe the action of a person, place, or thing in the sentence. Unlike other types of verbs, finite verbs do not require another verb in the sentence in order to be grammatically correct.
Non-finite verbs, on the other hand, do not change their form when there is a change in the number or person of the subject. There are mainly three types of non-finite verbs: infinitives, gerunds, and participles. Some examples of non-finite verbs include:
- To walk
Infinitives are the base form of a verb that is usually preceded by the word “to”. Gerunds are verbs that end in “-ing” and function as a noun in the sentence. Participles are verbs that end in “-ed” or “-ing” and function as an adjective in the sentence.
- Verbs that have a definite relation with the subject or noun.
- These verbs are usually the main verb of a clause or sentence and can be changed according to the noun.
- They are used only in present and past tense.
- They can be indicative of passive or active voice and also of number (singular or plural).
She walks home. – Here we see that the finite verb is “walks” and the pronoun is ‘she’.
She walked home. – Here we can see how the verb changed/modified to change the tense of the sentence.
- You promised me the last ticket.
- I am excited about going to the amusement park.
- I went for a walk around the park.
- She was waiting in the room before he came in.
- Does your brother know my brother?
- We want John to act as club secretary.
- I like taking photographs of insects.
- Coming home last night, I saw a deer run across the road.
Non-finite verbs are a type of verb that do not show tense, mood, or gender. They cannot be the main verb of a sentence and do not indicate the action being performed by the subject or noun. Instead, non-finite verbs are used as nouns, adverbs, or adjectives.
Infinitives are non-finite verbs that are formed by adding “to” before the base form of the verb. They can be used as the subject, object, or complement in a sentence. Infinitives can also be used after certain verbs, such as “want,” “need,” and “like,” to express purpose.
- To swim is my favorite activity.
- I want to learn how to play the guitar.
- She needs to finish her homework before going out.
Gerunds are non-finite verbs that end in “-ing” and function as nouns in a sentence. They can be used as the subject, object, or complement in a sentence. Gerunds can also be used after certain verbs, such as “enjoy,” “avoid,” and “admit,” to express an action.
- Swimming is my favorite activity.
- I enjoy reading books.
- He admitted stealing the money.
Participles are non-finite verbs that can function as adjectives in a sentence. There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles end in “-ing” and past participles end in “-ed,” “-d,” or “-t.”
- The running water is so refreshing.
- The broken vase needs to be replaced.
- The excited children ran to the playground.
Common Errors and Misconceptions
When it comes to finite and non-finite verbs, there are a few common errors and misconceptions that people often have. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
Mistaking Non-Finite Verbs for Finite Verbs
One of the most common mistakes people make is mistaking non-finite verbs for finite verbs. Remember, non-finite verbs do not show tense, person, or number and cannot be the main verb of a sentence. They are often used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. So, if you see a verb that doesn’t seem to fit with the tense of the sentence or doesn’t have a subject, it’s probably a non-finite verb.
Confusing Gerunds and Present Participles
Gerunds and present participles can look very similar, but they have different functions. A gerund is a verb form that ends in “-ing” and functions as a noun. A present participle is a verb form that also ends in “-ing” but functions as an adjective or adverb. For example:
- Gerund: Swimming is good exercise.
- Present participle: The swimming pool is closed for repairs.
Using Non-Finite Verbs Incorrectly
Non-finite verbs are often used incorrectly, especially when it comes to split infinitives and dangling participles. A split infinitive occurs when an adverb is placed between “to” and the verb in an infinitive phrase. For example: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” A dangling participle occurs when a participle phrase is used without a clear subject. For example: “Walking to the store, the rain began to fall.” To avoid these errors, make sure your non-finite verbs are used correctly and have a clear subject.
Overusing Passive Voice
Passive voice is a grammatical construction where the subject of the sentence is acted upon rather than doing the action. While it is sometimes necessary, overusing passive voice can make your writing sound weak and unclear. Try to use active voice whenever possible to make your writing more concise and direct. For example:
- Passive voice: The cake was eaten by the dog.
- Active voice: The dog ate the cake.
By keeping these common errors and misconceptions in mind, you can improve your understanding and usage of finite and non-finite verbs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are 20 examples of finite verbs?
There are many examples of finite verbs, but here are 20:
- I am walking.
- They were singing.
- She will dance.
- He has eaten.
- We can swim.
- You should study.
- It may rain.
- They have arrived.
- She is sleeping.
- He will run.
- We were laughing.
- You must listen.
- It could happen.
- They had finished.
- She was cooking.
- He can speak.
- We should go.
- You are reading.
- It will snow.
- They might come.
How does Grammarly explain finite and non-finite verbs?
Grammarly defines finite verbs as verbs that show tense and can stand alone as the main verb in a sentence. Non-finite verbs, on the other hand, do not show tense and cannot stand alone as the main verb in a sentence. Instead, they are used as modifiers or nouns.
What are the differences between finite and non-finite verbs?
The main difference between finite and non-finite verbs is that finite verbs show tense and can stand alone as the main verb in a sentence, while non-finite verbs do not show tense and cannot stand alone as the main verb in a sentence. Non-finite verbs are used as modifiers or nouns.