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.
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.