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Non Finite Verbs

One of the most important parts of speech is verb. The word that shows an action or state of being is known as a verb. There are two forms of verbs:
  1. Finite Verb
  2. Non Finite Verb

Non Finite Verbs

A non-finite verb also known as a verbal is used to describe a verb that does not show or exhibit tense and number in an independent clause or sentence.  As it does not show any tense, it cannot stand on its own.  It can never serve the purpose of the main verb in the sentence. Verbs in forms like (ing, infinitive, or –ed) are Non Finite verbs. The distinction between finite and Non Finite verbs is a very important one in grammar, since it affects how verbs behave in sentences.

  • They are singing songs together. (Singing- the verb has the -ing form
  • Leave immediately when you are asked to do so. (asked - the verb has the -ed form )
  • It took courage to continue after the accident. (the verb has the infinitive form)
Non Finite verbs cannot be the main verb of a clause or sentence as they do not talk about the action that is being performed by the subject or noun. Non Finite verbs are used as nouns, adverbs and adjectives. They do not indicate any tense, mood or gender. There are three types of non-finite verbs: gerunds, infinitives, and participles. Non Finite verbs are also used to form non-finite clauses which are simply dependent clauses that use non-finite verbs.

  1. Leon loves camping in the woods. (Here the non-finite verb is camping and it is used as a noun. These kind of non-finite verbs are called Gerunds.)
  2. I need to go to sleep. (Here the non- finite verb phrase is to sleep; it is acting as a noun. Non-finite verbs that use ‘to’ before them are called Infinitives.)
  3. The sleeping dog caused a delay. (The Non Finite verbs that have ‘-ing’ or ‘-ed’ as suffixes and cause the verb to come an adjective are called Participles.)


The Non Finite verb can be used as gerund, infinitive, or participle

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Gerund - When a noun is formed from a verb, it is known as a gerund. A direct object like a verb can still be taken by a gerund. Non Finite verb used as a noun are called Gerunds.

Example: Signing, Dreaming, Swimming, Playing, Drinking, screaming, flying, trying

Infinitives - Infinitives are always the base or the basic form of a verb. Usually the infinitives are preceded by to. When the infinitive is preceded by to, we call it full infinitive or to infinitive. Non-finite verbs that use ‘to’ before them are called Infinitives

  • I live to walk 5 miles every day. (Walk is the base form or basic form of the verb. It is preceded by –to. )
  • I must walk 5 miles every day. (Here in this sentence, the ‘to’ is dropped. After certain verbs, ‘to’ is not required. )
  • I walk every day. (Here walk is the main verb or the finite verb in the sentence.)
Participles - When a word is formed from a verb and that can be used as an adjective, it is known as participle. The Non Finite verbs that have ‘-ing’ or ‘-ed’ as suffixes and cause the verb to come an adjective are called Participles.)

  • Having typed the letter, she went home.
  • Most sports shows have a spoken commentary with them.
  • Her typing speed was less than ideal.

 Non-finite Verbs 
 Present Participle               Typing Speed                          Speaking Engagement                     
 Perfect Participle  Having Typed  Having Spoken
 Past Participle  Typed Letters  Spoken Commentary
 Gerund  Typing can be difficult   Do you find speaking  stressful? 
 Infinitive  To type is a real skill  They want you to speak.

Examples of Non Finite verbs

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  1. I am having a great time with my friends. 
  2. Having spoken her mind, she felt more at ease.
  3. I find speaking stressful.
  4. This is the best software package to improve productivity.
  5. His typing speed was perfect.
  6. He asked me to go later.
  7. To win the match was my dream.
  8. You need to slow down a bit.
  9. You will need to limit your workload
  10. The speaking engagement was for next Saturday afternoon.

Highlight the Non Finite verbs in the sentences below:
  • I love camping in the woods.
  • This is an interesting book. 
  • A rabbit-hunting woman.
  • She has the money to buy it.
  • Travelling might satisfy your desire for new experiences.
  • Having looked over the papers, she looked out of the window.
  • John has become very boring. 
  • To type at a good speed is the best skill.
  • The management wants you to talk.
  • Having completed the assignment, he left his office.
  • My walking shoes are extremely comfortable.
  • When Bernard moans, he’s much more convincing.
  • A charming house on the outskirts of town.
  • I love the noise of falling rain.
  • Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans
  • The police arrested him for speeding.
  • Phil agreed to give me a ride.
  • Everyone wanted Caroline to be the captain of the team.
  • Arriving late, I saw the other kids and they seemed to be excited.

Highlight the Non Finite verbs from the paragraph below:

The picture illustrates the ferocity of the great white shark. I can imagine huge teeth slicing through ribs and abdomen. The picture was photographed before Rodney was repaired with more than 450 stitches. As a reporter climbing on board a boat with Rodney Fox, I am still fixated by that image.
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