What is a Non-Finite Verb? How to Identify a Non-Finite Verb?


The non-finite verb is a neutral verb. It does not change with the change of subject and tense. It is important to learn what a non-finite verb is and how it plays role in forming a sentence. The opposite of a non-finite verb is a finite verb. To understand a non-finite verb, first, have a look at what a finite verb is.

What is a non-finite verb?

In a sentence or in a clause, the verb which does not have its own subject and does not show agreement with the subject, and which cannot play the role of making the sentence of different tenses is called a non-finite verb or sometimes is called ‘verbals’.

Without modal auxiliaries, all kinds of verbs in English can be used as non-finite verb if it has these qualities in a clause or a sentence.

How to identify a non-finite verb?

To properly identify the non-finite verb in a sentence, we should be sure that the verb is carrying the following three features. They are:

  1. a non-finite verb will have no subject of its own
  2. as a non-finite verb has no subject of its own, it does not need to show agreement with the subject (in person and number),
  3. a non-finite verb has no power to play the role of making different tenses.

Types of Non-finite Verb:

A non-finite verb can be of three types. They are:

  1. Gerund
  2. Participle
  3. Infinitive

As earlier said, gerunds, participles, and infinitives form a class that is also known as verbals.

Non-finite verbs
Non-finite verbs | Gerund, Participle, Infinitive

1. -Gerund:

An ‘-ing’ form verb word that grammatically works like a noun is called a gerund.

So, it should be remembered that to be a gerund, a word should be an ‘ing’ form verb word, and should work like a noun. That is to say, a gerund, like a noun, can function as the subject of a verb, as the object of a verb, as the object of a preposition, etc.


  • Reading is a good way of learning new things. [Subject of the verb ‘is’.]
  • I love reading to learn new things. [Object of the verb ‘love’.]
  • William is fond of reading.[Object of the preposition ‘of’.]

Identifying a gerund:

If an ‘-ing’ form of a verb acts as the subject of a verb, the object of a verb, or an object of a preposition, you can be sure that the ‘-ing’ verb is a gerund. Apart from this, you can apply a trick and that is: put the question ‘what’ to the verb. If it is a gerund, you will get a logically satisfactory answer. That means, a gerund answers the question ‘what’. If you ask with ‘what’ on the verb, the answer will be a gerund, if there is a gerund.

2. -Participle:

If a present participle or a past participle form of a verb acts like an adjective, then that is a participle. So, we are to understand that despite its verb origin, it is an adjective, and it describes a noun.


  • A running dog is coming towards us. [describes the noun ‘dog’].
  • My son loves boiled eggs. [describes the noun ‘eggs’.]
  • A tired person always feels sleepy. [describes the noun ‘person’.]
  • That was a charming story. [describes the noun ‘story’.]

Types of participle:

Participles mainly are of two types. They are:

  • Present participle
  • Past participle

-Present participle:

The verb form that ends in ‘-ing’ is called The Present Participle. The words coming, going, taking, learning are the examples of the present participle.

-Past participle:

The verb form that ends in –d, – ed, -t,-n, -en,-ne is called the past participle. The words shown, taken, found, eaten are the examples of the past participle.

Note: There is another kind of participle what is known as the perfect participle. The perfect participles are rarely used in modern English. So, I would like to skip this form of participle.

3. -Infinitive:

A base form of the verb following the word ‘to’, expressed or understood, is called an infinitive.  To go, to come, to learn, to inquire, to eat, these are all infinitives.

It is to be remembered that the infinitive expresses the clear meaning of the verb, without expressing anything about wh, what, or when.


  • They want to eat now.
  • My son wants to go to school.
  • I like to talk to him.

Infinitives without ‘to’:

(a) If the first verb of a clause or sentence is make, hear, let, see, feel, bid, need, watch, dare, etc., then the immediate second verb will be of without ‘to’, which is known as bare infinitive.


  • They made me walk (not ‘to walk’) in the sun.
  • Did you hear him sing? (not ‘to sing’)
  • Let me do (not ‘to do”) it.
  • They saw him go. (not ‘to go’)
  • The teacher bade me bring (not ‘to bring’) the pen.
  • He need not come (not ‘to come’) here.

(b) Infinitive sign ‘to’ is omitted after the verbs shall, should, will, would, can, could, must, may, might, etc.


  • He can write (not ‘to write’) English correctly.
  • You must send (not ‘to send) him a mail.
  • They might help (not ‘to help) you if you want.

(c) Infinitive sign ‘to’ is omitted after the verb phrases had better, had rather, cannot but, etc.


  • He had better come (not ‘to come’) here earlier.
  • You had rather wait (not ‘to wait’) for your brother.
  • William cannot but confess (not ‘to confess) his guilt.

Rezaul Karim

Hi, my name is Rezaul Karim. I am an English teacher and founder of LearnEnglishWithRezaul.com. I work with non-native English learners to help them understand English grammar from basic to intermediate. I also help them improve their conversation skills, and communication ability and reduce their accent. I hope you may like my posts on this website, and if you really really feel that this page/website is useful for English learners, please happily share it for others to know.

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