What is a non-finite verb?Summarise into one sentence please!

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The word finite means "having a limited nature."  A finite verb is a verb that has limitations put upon it; it is a conjugated verb used as a predicate. 

  • It is a verb that has a subject; therefore, it is often referred to as the main verb of a sentence. 
  • This finite verb indicates tense, or time, and person and number (e.g. third-person singular, first-person plural, etc.) In other words, it is a conjugated verb.

Here are examples:

My friends and I often go [3rd person plural] to the movies.   Stan goes [3rd person singular] with his girlfriend.

On the other hand, a non-finite verb is not a conjugated verb that has a limited usage.  Non-finite verbs are one of the 4 principal parts of verbs:  They are (a) infinitives   (b) participles   or (c) gerunds, which are the present participle used as a noun.

Here are examples of each

(a) Infinitives: to rest, to sing, to eat, to sleep, to die, to dream

Hamlet's soliloquy has several infinitives as he says

To be or not to be, that is the question....

To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there's the rub."

(b) Participles:  hearing, singing, thinking, [present participle used in phrases or as adjectives]

Hearing [participial phrase that modifies news as an adjective phrase] the good news, Frank leaped to his feet in elation.

Mr. Olsen had to get a hearing aid. [used as an adjective]

(c) Gerund:  Running, seeing, dancing [used as nouns]

Dancing [subject] is fun, and it is good exercise.

Marie lost weight by running [object of preposition by] three times a week.

***To summarize:

The finite forms of a verb are those forms of the verb that demonstrate tense, person or number (singular or plural).

Non-finite verb forms have no person, tense or number.


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