Finite and Non-Finite verbs

Look at the following sentences and find out the functions of the verbs given in each sentences:

i. To err is him.
ii. I have come to see you.
iii. Painting is my favourite pass time.
iv. To respect our teachers is our duty.
v. I enjoy singing.
vi. Guided by my father I went on.
vii. Mary men desire to make money quickly.
viii. He refused to obey the orders.
ix. We met a girl carrying a basket of flowers.
x. Smoking is is a bad habit.

In above sentences the underlined verbs (such as; is, have, come, enjoy, went, desire, refused, met, seems) are limited (or inflect) according to their subjects (person and number), tense and mood. Such verbs are called finite verbs.

On the other hand the Bold verbs (such as; to err, to see, painting, to respect, singing, guided, to make, to obey, carrying) are not limited (or does not inflect) according to their subjects (person and number) tense and mood. Such verbs are called non-finite verbs.

Thus, simply a finite verb is one that inflects according to its subject, tense and mood rather than being non-finite verb is one which is not limited by its subject, tense and mood.


  • Finite verbs show time of the sentence.
  • They also express the person and no of the subject of the sentence.

Look at more examples to understand this:

Ali sings a song.

Ali sang a song.

Note: sings shows present tense and sang alludes to past tense.

They sing a song.

Note: sing alludes that the subject of the sentence is plural no.

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Types of non-finite verb:-There are four classes of non-finite verb. These are:

i. Infinitive with to.
ii. Infinitive without to.
iii. –ing (present participle form).
iv. –ed (past participle form).

Infinitive: The base form of verb is called the infinitive. It is the form of verb which does not have inflections. Such as, do, take, make and eat etc. the infinitive with “to” is also called the dictionary form of verb and the infinitive without to is also called base infinitive.

When a verb is an infinitive, it is on its base form, that is we can’t have ‘s’ ending (like to knows) or past tense endings the main verb in a sentence. There are always one or two main verbs that describe the main action or state.

He did not know where to turn for help.
• You are not to whisper.

The underlined verbs are main verbs, where as the bold are the infinitives.

Some more examples are:
• I was glad to hear of your success.
To hold information seems pointers.

Infinitive are used as;

  • Subject of the verb
  • Object of the verb
  • Compliment of verb or an object

Example Sentences:

i. To dance sixty is not easy.
Subject: what is not easy? (To dance. (Subject of ‘is’)

ii. To say is very easy.
Subject: what is very easy? (To say (subject of ‘is’)

iii. They wanted to play.
Subject: wanted what? (To play (object of verb wanted)

iv. Children learn to speak.
Object: learn what? (To speak (object of verb learn)

v. He asked me to leave.
vi. His happy is to paint.
In sentences (v) and (vi) the infinitive “to leave” and “to paint” are complements of the object “me” and finite verb is respectively.

Note:- The passive infinitive occurs in the following pattern:

i. Men like to be admired.
ii. He was not to be seen.
iii. Manzoor deserves to be beaten.

Infinitive without to or bare infinitive

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After certain verbs like bid, let, make, need, dare, see, hear, know, feel, watch, etc. we use the infinitive without ‘to’.
a. Bid him go there.
b. I bade him go.
c. Let him play.
d. I felt something move under my feet.
e. He made me laugh.
f. He dare not enter his room.
g. You dare not do it.
h. I need not attend the class.
i. We need not go there.
j. I heard him cry.

Note:-“to” is omitted after the verbs ‘dare’. “Need” when they are not conjugated with do.

The infinitive to is also used after the verbs will, would, shall, should, may, might, can, could and must.
a. I will pay the bill.
b. You should work harder.
c. Ha can speak five languages.
d. You must come to the office at nine tomorrow.

The infinitive without “to” is also used after had better, had rather, would rather, sooner than, rather than; as:
i. You had better ask permission.
ii. I had rather play than work.
iii. I would rather die than suffer so.

Read Also : Gerund

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