what is finite and infinite?


Finite verb forms are marked by inflection and indicate person, number and tense. A finite verb can be the single main verb in a sentence.

For example, the finite forms of the verb go are:

I go to school in the afternoon. Mia goes to school by bus every day. Yesterday, we went to school at 9 am.
  • go (present tense in all persons except the third person singular)
  • goes (present tense in the third person singular)
  • went (past tense)
Non-finite verb forms

Non-finite verb forms do not indicate person, number or tense.

The non-finite forms of the verb go are:

I can't go with you.
Unfortunately, she had to go.
Do you really go out with her?
I didn't go to work today.
I want to go home. I like going to the cinema.
Carol suggested going for a walk.
Going faster would have been really dangerous. Jack has gone away on holiday.
By the time Sue returned, the others had gone back to their cars.
I wish I had gone to university. I'm going to a concert tonight.
I heard my dad going up the stairs.
Going across the bridge last night, I saw someone swimming in the river.
  • go (infinitive)
  • going (gerund)
  • gone (past participle)
  • going (present participle)

The infinitive, the gerund and the participle have other forms, which are discussed in detail in the following chapters.

Main Difference – Finite vs. Nonfinite Verbs

The main difference between finite and nonfinite verbs is that finite verbs act as the main verb whereas nonfinite verbs or verbals don’t act as a verb in a sentence. Since finite verbs act as the main verb of a sentence, they indicate person, number, and tense. Nonfinite verbs do not indicate person, number, and tense and they do not indicate any infections.  

What are Finite Verbs

A finite verb is a verb that has a subject and shows inflections. A finite verb shows tense (past/present), number (singular/plural) and person(I, you, it etc.). It is often the main verb of a sentence and can be changed according to the subject.

For example,

He promised me to send a letter.

(Here, promised act as the main verb in the sentence; therefore, it is in its finite form.)

The promised letter never arrived.

(Here, promised does not act as a verb. It merely describes the letter. The main verb of this sentence is arrived.)

Observe the following sentences and see if you can identify the finite verb in them.

He loves to eat popcorn.

I waited for him to come.

The postman distributed all the letters but one.

Everyone wanted to buy the new book, but there were only 10 copies.

What are Nonfinite Verbs

Nonfinite verbs are the verb forms that do not indicate tense, person or number. Nonfinite verb forms are never used as the main verb of a sentence. In fact, non-finite verbs do not act as a verb; they are often  used as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Non-finite verbs are also called verbals. There are three types of nonfinite verb forms or verbals.

Gerunds: A gerund is formed by adding –ing to the verb. It functions as a noun.

I love reading.

Reading helps you to learn.

Participles: Participles are classified into two groups: past participles (formed by adding –ed to regular verbs) and present participles (formed by adding –ing to the verbs). They act as adjectives.

The injured man was rushed to the hospital.

Dancing girls were the next to perform.

Infinitives: An infinitive is a verb in its base form.It is often preceded by to. An infinitive can function as a noun, adjective, and adverb.

I love to read.

He was asked to leave the room.

Observe the flowing sentences and try to identify the verbals or nonfinite verbs.

Mary wanted to buy a new book.

By the time the police arrived, the thief had vanished.

Collecting stamps is one of her hobbies.        

They are going on a date tonight.

Difference Between Finite and Nonfinite Verbs Verb

Finite verb forms act as a verb.

Nonfinite verb forms do not act as a verb.


Finite Verbs act as the main verb of a sentence or a clause.

Nonfinite Verbs act as nouns, adjectives and adverbs.

Number, person and tense

Finite Verbs indicate number, person and tense.

Nonfinite Verbs do not indicate number, person and tense.


Finite Verbs are marked by inflections.

Nonfinite Verbs remain unchanged.


Finite Verbs are used in the present tense and past tense
Nonfinite Verbs are infinitive, gerunds and participles.


  • 3
Finite is something fixed while infinite is unlimited
  • 1
Finite = limited
Infinited = unlimited
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