Finite and Non-Finite Verbs


Finite and Non-Finite Verbs in English

A Finite Verb is limited by person and number of the subject and changes its forms according to tenses.

A Non-Finite Verb is not limited by person and number as a Verb that has a Subject and is, therefore, called the Verb infinite or simply the Infinitive.

Finite and Non-Finite Verbs

Note- a Finite Verb helps to complete the structure of a sentence but an Infinitive can`t do that. Moreover, a Finite Verb requires a Subject but an Infinitive can`t take a subject.

Finite Verb


Asma goes to school

The mangoes taste sweet.

He attended three meetings.

The boot is so heavy that he can`t walk.

We can save this house by purchasing.

Asma does n`t like to go to school.

The mangoes are sweet to taste.

He had three meetings to attend.

The boot is too heavy for him to walk.

Purchasing is the way to save this house.

Infinitives are mainly of three types:

  1. Simple Infinitive
  2. Qualifying Infinitive
  3. Perfect Infinitive

Simple Infinitive (Noun Infinitive):

  • Simple Infinitives are used in the following conditions:

As the Subject of Verb:

  • To err is human.
  • To steal is a sin.
  •  To forgive is divine.
  • To see is to believe.
  • To give is better than (to) receive.

As the Object of a Verb:

  • I like to play games.
  • He likes to read stories.
  • They tried to win the medals.

As the Complement of a Verb:

  • I asked him to shut the door.
  • The window is difficult to open.
  • Our motto is to work.
  • His habit is to rise early.
  • They are to start at once.

As the Object of a preposition:

  • I am about to go.
  • The runners are about to start.
  • The patient was about to die.

As an Apposition to ‘it’:

  • It is easy to say.
  • It is silly to talk like that.
  • It is foolish to waste time.

After Interrogative Pronouns and Adverbs:

  • I don`t know how to swim.
  • I don`t know where to go.
  • Does he know when to start?
  • I told him what to do.
  • She could`t decide which doll to play with.

Qualifying Infinitive:

  • Qualifying infinitives are used in the following conditions:
  • To qualify the Noun:
  • He had no food to eat.
  • This is not the time to weep.
  • I have some letters to write.
  • He is a man to be loved.
  • To qualifying an Adjectives:
  • The rose is sweet to smell.
  • Fruits are good to eat.
  • English is difficult to learn.

To modify a Verb:

  • We eat to live. (Purpose)
  • I am going to see the match. (Purpose)
  • She wept to see the mishap. (Cause)
  • He worked hard to get a prize. (Result)

After ‘too’. {too….to}:

  • I am too tired to work.
  • He is too proud to beg.
  • I am too weak to walk.
  • She is too ill to sit-up on bed.

Perfect Infinitives (Complete infinitive):

  • There is another kind of infinitive that can be called ‘Completed infinitive’. When the action expressed by the infinitive is regarded as complemented, the perfect aspect of the infinitive must be used:
  • He seems to have been beaten.
  • They seem to have forgotten to come here.
  • She appears to have been absent for some days.
  • Asif is believed to have damaged the doll. (= it is believed that Asif has damaged the doll).

‘Have to’ infinitive for obligation:

  • I have to go there (obligation)
  • Difference of ‘is to’ and ‘has to/have to’:
  • It is wrong to suppose that ‘is to’ and ‘has to/have to’ mean the same thing. ‘is to’ means ‘it is settled’ and ‘has to/ have to’ means ‘it is obligatory.
  • He is to go there. (= it is settled that he will go.)
  • He is to go there. (= it is obligatory for him to go)

‘To’ after ‘help’’:

  • ‘To’ after ‘help’ may or may not be used:
  • I helped him to find his things. Or I helped him find his things.
  • [The omission of ‘to’ after ‘help’ is more usual in American than in British usage. (The ALD,. Hornby]

Bare Infinitive [Infinitive without ‘to’]

  • The word to is often used with the infinitive. But “after certain Verbs (bid,, let, make, need, dare, see, hear) we use the infinitive without to.” (Wren & Martin)
  • Such infinitive without to are called Bare Infinitives
  • I bad him to go
  • Let him sit there.
  • I will not let you go.
  • I made him run.
  • You need not go today.
  • We saw him do the work.
  • I heard him cry.
  • You dare not do it.



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