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Finite and Non-Finite Verb

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1893 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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Finite and Non-Finite Verb 

Learning Objectives

I will learn :

  • how to distinguish between Finite and Non-Finite Verbs
  • Infinitives, Participles and Gerunds


Read the sentences given below:

I am writing.

You are writing.

They were writing

The verbs are different in the three sentences. This is because the verb is controlled by the number, person and tense of the subject. Therefore they are finite verbs.

  • A finite verb is controlled by the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural the verb is plural

Example : The boy runs fast. (subject is singular)

The boys run fast. (subject is plural)

  • A finite verb is controlled by the person.

Example : I go to the gymnasium on Sunday. (I – First Person)

He goes to the gymnasium on Sunday. (He – Third Person)

  • A finite verb is controlled by the tense. It can be in the past, present or future tense.

Example : She lives in Kolkata (Present Tense)

She lived in Kolkata (Past Tense)

Try Your Hand 1( H3)

Pick out the finite verbs in the following sentences:

  1. She kept the plates in the sink.
  2. Looking at both sides, he crossed the street.
  3. The curtain is flying in the wind.
  4. Many of us will sign the petition.
  5. They are eager to join our club.
  6. It was raining heavily when I left.
  7. Rolling stones gather no moss.
  8. I have requested him to come.
  9. I enjoy reading books.
  10. Alighting from the aircraft she switched her mobile phone on.

Now read the sentences given below:

I enjoy listening to music.

You enjoy listening to music.

They enjoy listening to music.

The verb 'listening' is not controlled by the number, person and tense of the subject. Therefore it is a non-finite verb.

Take a look at a few more sentences:

I like to swim every evening.

He likes to swim every evening

They liked to swim every evening.

The verb 'swim' remains unchanged whatever be the person, number and tense of the subject.

On reading these sentences we see that some non-finite verbs end with -ing and some have to before them.

Try Your Hand 2 (H3)

Read the sentences given below and state whether the highlighted verbs are finite or non-finite:

  1. He was drawing a picture in his notebook.
  2. He wanted to draw a cartoon.
  3. Keeping her bag on the floor, she ran out.
  4. They wanted to meet the head teacher.
  5. I polish the silver ear-rings regularly.
  6. The weeping woman appealed for help.
  7. She had spoken the truth, but we had found it hard to believe her.

Non -finite verbs are of three kinds :

1 Infinitives 2.Participles 3. Gerunds

In this lesson we shall take up the Infinitive.

Read the given sentences:

I like to sing

She tried to help the old man.

'To sing' and 'to find' are infinitives.

The infinitive is the base form of the verb and it often has 'to' before it.

Try Your Hand 3 (H3)

Pick out the infinitives in the given sentences:

  1. To find fault is easy.
  2. I did not want to scare him.
  3. The best course of action would be to take leave.
  4. She phoned to speak to my father.
  5. In order to get a job he left college.
  6. He had no choice but to travel to Chennai.
  7. The young man rose to address the gathering.

After certain verbs, such as bid, let, make, need, dare, see, hear, the infinitive is used without 'to'

Example : Let us go for a picnic.

She saw her brother win the race.

He makes me read the lesson aloud.

Try Your Hand 4 (H3)

Pick out the infinitives in the given sentences:

  1. They need not cook today.
  2. He bid me sing a song.
  3. Let them draw whatever they want.
  4. The children saw her buy food.
  5. She is making him revise the lesson.
  6. They heard her speak to the policeman on duty.
  7. I dared not look into the room.

Infinitives can be used to join sentences. Look at the examples given below.

Ravi spoke the truth.

He was not afraid to do so.

These two sentences can be combined to form one sentence:

Ravi was not afraid to speak the truth.

We see that one of the main verbs 'spoke' is changed into the infinitive 'to speak' and used to combine the sentences.

Take a look at another example.

He remained inside the burning house. He wanted to rescue all the children.

This pair of sentences will change to :

He remained inside the burning house to rescue all the children.

We see that an infinitive 'to rescue' which was already present in one of the sentences has been used to combine the sentences.

Try Your Hand 5 (H3)

Combine each pair of sentences by using an infinitive.

  1. We started running. We wanted to reach the station on time.
  2. Every school has a Principal. He decides how the school will function.
  3. The old man gave his servant one thousand rupees. He wanted to reward him for his faithful service.
  4. He is determined to attain a high post. He works day and night for that purpose.
  5. She collects old cook books from various parts of India. This is her hobby.
  6. They must write a letter of apology. That is the only way to avoid punishment.
  7. She goes to the hospital every day. She is always willing to look after needy patients.

Quick Recap

  • Finite verbs are controlled by the number, person and tense of the subject.
  • Non-finite verbs are not controlled by the number, person and tense of the subject
  • There are three kinds of non-finite verbs : Infinitives, Participles and Gerunds.
  • Participles and Gerunds may be similar in form as both end with –ing.
  • Infinitives are usually preceded by 'to'. However there are infinitives that are not preceded by 'to'.
  • Infinitives can be used to combine sentences

Brush Up Your Grammar (H2)

Revision 1(H3)

In the following sentences pick out the finite verbs and the non-finite words. The first sentence has been done for you :

  1. Hearing the knock on the door, she ran to open it.

Non- finite : Hearing Finite: ran

  1. I want you to keep the keys in the drawer.
  2. She saw the fishermen casting their nets.
  3. Rina stopped at the shop to buy something.
  4. They enjoy performing in front of a live audience.
  5. She read the instructions on how to bake a cake.
  6. I heard the man give instructions to the taxi driver.
  7. Her sparkling eyes revealed her excitement.
  8. He kept himself busy by teaching children.
  9. Please permit me to order the rest of the books

Revision 2 (H3)

Fill in the blanks with appropriate non-finite verbs:

I decided _____ out of the hotel and take a walk. Suddenly a number of monkeys surrounded me and began ____ my purse away. ____ here and there for help, I spotted a banana seller who was setting up his stall. I waved to him and bade him _____ towards me. _____ about two dozen bananas he hurried forwards. I saw him ____ the bananas on the ground. Then he began ____ their attention by making clicking sounds. _________ my bag the monkeys rushed towards him. I made my escape but came back later______ him and ______ for the bananas.

Revision 3 (H3)

Work in pairs. One of you will ask the question the other will give the answer with the help of the clues in brackets. The first one has been done for you :

Why did you go out? (buy some fruits)

I went out to buy some fruits

  1. Why are you standing here? (greet the Chief Guest)
  2. Why will Rajni go to Chennai? (visit her aunt)
  3. Why did you sell your car? (buy a car)
  4. Why did you travel by plane? (save time)
  5. Why did you go to the bazaar? (buy grocery)
  6. Why did you spend an extra hour in school? (practise football)
  7. Why are you going to College Street? (buy second hand books)

Revision 4(H3)

Complete the sentences using the correct non-finite form of the verb given in brackets:

  1. I am sorry for ________ (speak) rudely to you.
  2. It gives me great pleasure ________ (inform) you that you have been selected.
  3. I want to start now _______ (complete) the project on time.
  4. I shall continue ______ (run) early in the morning.
  5. It was rude of him ______ (scream) at his mother.
  6. I must stop ______ (give) advice to every one.
  7. I almost came under the wheels of the _____ (speed) bus

Try This 1

Make a list of 4 things that you enjoy doing

  • Looking at the starry sky
  • __________________
  • _________________-
  • _________________
  • _________________

Now, make a list of things you must remember to do in the coming week

  • To cover my text books
  • __________
  • __________
  • __________
  • __________

Try This 2

Use non-finites to write a dialogue between two friends about a three day camping trip that both will be going for. You could begin like this :

Seema : I am going for the school camping trip.

Wendy : So will I. In fact I saw you write your name on the list.

Seema : I have decided to take my transistor. Carrying it will be no problem.


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