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Non-finite Verbs


ˌnɒn ˈfaɪnaɪt




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Breaking Free: Embracing Non-Finite Verbs in English

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Introduction to Non-Finite Verbs


Non-finite verbs can be defined as a derivative form of a verb that is contrasted against finite verb forms. It is in a way that they lack inflection for number or person, and in that, they cannot perform the action as the primary root of an independent clause. Some of the non-finite verbs in English include infinitives, participles, and gerunds. 


If you look by definition, then a non-finite verb cannot serve as the main verb in an independent clause. In practical terms, this means that they don’t serve as the action of a sentence as well and also don’t have a tense. While the sentences around them may be past, present, or future tense, the non-finite verbs themselves are neutral in their approach.

Importance in English Grammar

When writing a sentence, using a non-finite verb is not important, as they are not an integral part of the sentence structure. The non-finite verbs show neither tenses nor the number of the verb when used in a sentence. However, they are multifunctional and can take up the gerund form of the verb and function as an infinitive by taking a word like ‘to’ along with the base form of the verb.

Types of Non-Finite Verbs


Infinitive is a basic form of the verb and is without an inflection that can bind it to any particular subject or tense. Infinitives have a base form of a verb with the word ‘to’ in front of it. For example- to be, to have, to give, etc. 


  • We cannot afford to walk down the steep slope.
  • The professors agreed to disagree regarding the voting system.
  • Ralf is going to attempt to pass the judiciary examination.
  • The leaves begin to fall when the season of autumn arrives. 


A gerund is a form of a verb that ends in -ing which is used as a noun in sentences. A verb is a word that refers to actions or states of being, and a noun is a word that we use to refer to people, places, things, and ideas when we use them in sentence construction. A gerund is like a blend of verbs and nouns and thus, it looks like a verb, but it acts like a noun.


  • Writing in Hebrew is a little difficult. 
  • Swimming is my favorite sport since I was eight years old.
  • Reading crime thrillers is exciting. 


A participle is a word derived from a verb that can be used in a sentence as an adjective and also as a form of certain verb tenses. Primarily, there are two main types of participles which are- Past participles (typically ending in “-ed,” “-en,” “-n,” “-ne,” or “-t”) are used for perfect tenses and passive voice constructions. 


  • Sara knocked, but no one opened the door.
  • The little child cried before her mother came to pick her up.

Functions of Non-Finite Verbs

Due to the flexibility of non-finite verbs, their usage can be found in various areas:

  • As Verb complements: In sentence structuring, we can use non-finite clauses as complements to verbs that take -ing or to-infinitive after them:


    A. I don’t enjoy playing football in the rain.
    B. I’d hate to travel to Manhattan every day.
  • In Verbal Phrases: The verb is an infinite or participle and doesn’t hold any tense which is why they can be used in verbal phrases.


    A. We are ready to sing now.
    B. I find it difficult to comprehend the answer.

  • Adjective Like Usage: Since the verb do not hold any tense, the functionality is major, which is why they can be used as adjectives also.


    A. Turning left, we came across the opening.
    B. Swimming is a popular sport among my classmates in school.

  • Noun-like Usage: Infinite verbs are flexible which is why they can be used as a noun as well.


    A. He tiptoed around the house so as to not wake anyone up from their sleep.

Differences between Finite and Non-Finite Verbs

The differences between finite and non-finite verbs are as follows:

Finite Verbs

Non-Finite Verbs

The forms act as a verb

The forms do not act as a verb

They act as the main verb while writing a sentence or a clause

They can act as nouns, adjectives, and also adverbs

They can indicate a number, person, and even tense

They cannot indicate numbers, person, or tense

Mostly used in present or past tense

They don’t really have tenses

Examples of Non-Finite Verbs in Different Contexts

  • Non-Finite Verbs Examples as Subjects:



    1. The ballerina taught us proper ballet dancing.
    2. Apologising to me is not enough this time after the mishap.


  • Non-Finite Verbs as Direct Objects:


    1. Skiing is an excellent sport during winters.


  • Non-Finite Verbs as Verb Complements:


    1. Mia wanted to learn swimming from her brother.


  • Non-Finite Verbs in Verbal Phrases:


    1. It is dangerous to drive on mountains during monsoons.

Common Mistakes and Challenges with Non-Finite Verbs

  • Dangling Participles: A dangling participle is an adjective that is unintentionally used in modifying the wrong noun in a sentence. An example of such is: “Walking through the kitchen, the smoke alarm was going off.” This sentence literally means that the smoke alarm was taking a stroll.

  • Misuse of Infinitives and Gerunds: One of the most common mistakes that people make while writing sentences with gerunds and infinitives is using the wrong form. For example, if you use the wrong verb form after a verb of preference or a verb of influence, then it can change the meaning of a sentence. For example, “I enjoyed to run” is incorrect, while the correct form should be “I enjoyed running.”

  • Subject-Verb Agreement with Non-Finite Verbs: All the other verbs in the sentence that are structured are non-finite verbs. Thus the non-finite verbs are mostly not in sync with the subject of the verb because their functionality is wide and different. The subject-verb agreement states that the finite or the main verb of the sentence must agree with its subject in person as well as in number used in the sentence..

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Key Takeaways

  • Non-finite verbs do not have any major functions in sentence structuring.
  • Non-finite verbs can be used as verbs, nouns, adjectives, and even adverbs.
  • The functionality is massive in it.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Can non-finite verbs be used as the main verb in a sentence?

A. No, they cannot serve as the main verb in the sentence.

How do I form infinitives, gerunds, and participles?

A. Gerunds are words that are formed from verbs and are used as nouns and they end with -ing; participles are words created from verbs so they can be used as adjectives or in adverbial phrases, and they also ending in -ing; and infinitives are verbs that take the simple tense in a sentence.

What is the difference between a gerund and a participle?

A. Present participles are used as verbs while gerunds are used as nouns.

Can non-finite verbs be used in different tenses?

A. Yes, they can be used in their present or past participles.

Are there any subject-verb agreement rules for non-finite verbs?

A. Yes, there is an agreement between subject-verb for non-finite verbs.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when using non-finite verbs?

A. You cannot use them as a main verb, and do not use dangling participles.

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