We are very familiar with what verbs are and what they do. They are the set of words that help describe any action someone or something can perform. Verbs belong to the eight parts of speech, and every sentence needs a verb and a subject to be complete in itself.
But just when we thought we know all about verbs, we encounter a new term called the non-finite verbs. In English grammar, a verb can be either a finite verb or a non-finite verb, and if you are aware of finite verbs, non-finite verbs will not be much of a trouble.
By definition, we can say that non-finite verbs are the verbs that cannot attend as the main verb of a sentence, which is just the opposite of finite verbs. That means they do not have a subject or a tense.
What are non-finite verbs?
Non-finite verbs will appear similar to most of the verbs that we usually use, but their purpose lies in the way they act and perform in different sentences. So, non-finite verbs are the verbs that can never serve as the main verb in a sentence and do not show any tense, nor do they have any subject. This means you cannot figure out whether the verb is in the past, present, or future tense.
In short, non-finite words are verbs that have a neutral tense. And these verbs can never stand alone in an independent clause because they depend on finite verbs to make sense. Moreover, non-finite verbs are of three different types. They are gerunds, infinitives, and participles.
Three types of non-finite verbs
Gerunds are basically words ending with -ing, such as eating, running, dancing, etc. These are forms of verbs that are normally used as a noun in a sentence. They can act as either a subject or object. Because they do not perform as a verb grammatically, gerunds are always non-finite verbs.
- He loves swimming on Sundays.
- Sarah hates going out.
Infinitives are the dictionary form of a verb, where “to” usually precedes the base form of the verb. And in that form, it can work as nouns, adverbs, or even adjectives in a sentence. But when “to” is not included, they become bare infinitives. In that case, they are applied in conjunction with helping verbs.
- She suggested me to help you with cooking.
- I can write all day long.
A participle is a verb form that helps modify a noun, verb, or a verb phrase in a sentence and acts similar to an adverb or adjective. Since they are not the main verb, they are a type of non-finite verbs.
Participles can be either present or past. The present participle is very similar to gerunds, which means they end with -ing. However, they act differently from that of gerunds. Gerunds are used as nouns, but present participles modify nouns and verbs.
- That yawning man looks like my brother.
Sometimes, they are also used with the verb to be, the helping verb, to adjunct the finite verbs.
- She was writing to me.
Now, the past participle form of a verb is very similar to finite past tense verbs, but they function differently. Finite verbs describe the action, while non-finite verbs act as an adjective or are dependent on the other verb to form a type of past tense. These are also used to form passive voice.
- He is ironing the washed bedsheets.
- The books are sold.
So, we have non-finite verbs that act as secondary verbs in a sentence and can never be the main verb.