Finite Verbs

Finite verbs and non-finite verbs are two broad categories of verbs.

We shall now try to understand the difference between these two categories of verbs.

Difference Between Finites and Non-finites

We look carefully at two groups of sentences...and especially at the verbs which for the moment need appear to us only as "greens" and "reds".

Group A

  • I like to sing songs.
  • We like to sing songs.
  • You like to sing songs.
  • He likes to sing songs.
  • She likes to sing songs.
  • Anita likes to sing songs.
  • They like to sing songs.

In sentences in Group A above, we have the verbs like and sing. The verb like takes on different forms (like, likes) in the seven sentences in the group. The verb sing has the same unchangeable form to sing in all the sentences.

So, we have one verb which changes and the other which does not change.

Now look at...

Group B

  • I am fond of eating mangoes.
  • We are fond of eating mangoes.
  • You are fond of eating mangoes.
  • He is fond of eating mangoes.
  • She is fond of eating mangoes.
  • Antony is fond of eating mangoes.
  • They are fond of eating mangoes.

In the sentences in Group B too, we have something similar to what we saw in Group A. Here, we have the verb be in different forms (am, is, are) and the unchanging verb form eating of the verb eat.

Here too, we have one verb which keeps changing and the other which remains unchanged.

What are Finite Verbs?

The verb like in group A and the verb be in group B are verbs which change. The reason these verbs change their forms must surely be because of the words I, we, you, he, she, Anita, they...since it is clear that all other words within the same group of sentences are the same.

These verbs which change according to words I, we, you, he, she, Anita, and they, are called Finite Verbs.

The word finite means limited. Since the words I, we, you, he, etc., can make these verbs change, the power of these verbs must be limited indeed! This idea will help us to remember what these verbs are.

What are Non-finite Verbs?

They are verbs which do not change. In group A above, the verb to sing and in group B, the verb eating are non-finite verbs of two different types. No word in a sentence can impose a change on these verbs. I suppose, that is why we call them non-finite, which means not limited by other words in a sentence.

Verbs of this type are...

Are Finite Verbs Necessary?

Yes. Every sentence in English needs such a verb. It is an essential part of a sentence.

You may find sentences in which a noun or a pronoun is missing (because it's hidden), but you won't find a sentence in which a finite verb is missing.
No finite verb, no sentence!

What are their types?

They may be transitive, intransitive or linking. In a sentence you can have any one of these types.

What is there to learn about them?

About these verbs we need to understand important things like:

We can think of these as properties of the verb or as "rules" which finite verbs obey. They are obedient and reliable verbs!

Non-finite verbs are the wayward ones in the family! Though they are born in the verb family, the non-finites often act like nouns, and sometimes like adjectives or adverbs.

For Further Reading and Study...


Related Pages

The Study of Verbs

What is a Verb?

List of Verbs

Principal Parts of Verbs


Types of Verbs

Finite Verbs

Non-Finites (Verbals)

Transitive Verbs

Helping Verbs


Verb Tenses

Subject-Verb Agreement