Finite Verbs and Infinitives
In this lesson, I am going to discuss an Important IELTS Grammar topic – Finite Verbs and Infinitives. This lesson will be aptly useful for ESL learners from South Asia, especially India. We will start with defining a Verb and move onto the main topic – Finite Verbs. We will master Finite Verbs with a few examples. Finally, we will discuss Infinitives and figure out a technique to identify them within a sentence.
- Infinitives and Finite Verbs are different forms of a VERB.
- Both (Infinitives and Finite Verbs) are slightly different in their construction and usage.
I’m sure you know what a Verb is, but still just to brush up our skills, here is the definition.
VERB – A word used to describe an action, a state (condition), or occurrence (event). Also, it forms the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as – to hear, to become, to happen.
Finite verbs are, usually, placed next to the subject or an object. Their main purpose is to indicate the tense of the sentence.
There are three conditions that need to be met to classify any verb as a Finite Verb. These are:
- The verb should be related to the Subject (Noun). That is, the verb should describe an action/state/event with the subject.
- And the Verb should also indicate the tense (Past, Present or Future).
- Also, all Modal Auxiliary Verbs (Helping Verbs) are Finite Verbs.
Let’s discuss a few sentences with Finite Verbs,
Angel teaches IELTS.
Here, teaches is an action Verb, it shows the action performed by Angel, which is ‘teach‘. Furthermore, ‘teach’ relates to the Subject (Angel). This satisfies our first condition.
Moreover, teaches is in the Present Tense, satisfying our second condition.
Thus, teaches is a Finite Verb.
Angel is teaching IELTS.
Here, ‘is’ is a state verb, it indicates the state of being of Angel, and the word ‘is’ relates to the Subject (Angel). This satisfies our first condition.
Moreover, ‘is’ is in the Present Tense.
Thus, ‘is’ is a Finite Verb.
Angel was teaching IELTS.
Here ‘was’ is a state verb, and it relates to Angel.
Moreover, ‘was’ is in the Past Tense.
Thus, ‘was’ is a Finite verb.
Did you know – All sentences have a Finite Verb.
A sentence can have more than one Finite Verb.
What about the verb ‘teach’ ?
Now you might wonder, isn’t ‘teach’ a verb!
Certainly, it is a Verb. But, it is a different kind of Verb, called Participle. We will learn about that in another lesson.
In fact, other than a Finite Verb there are many types of Verbs.
To name a few, there are Gerunds, Infinitives and Participles. Together, they are known as Non-Finite Verbs or Verbals. You know, curiosity killed the cat, and it seems we are following a similar trail. So, let’s not get carried away, and instead reserve a discussion on Verbals for some other day.
All Modals are Finite Verbs
Modal Auxiliary Verb (Helping Verbs) such as can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should, will, would are also Finite Verbs.
Let’s learn this with an example :
You may eat whatever you like.
Here, may is a Modal Auxiliary Verb, and thus, it is also a Finite Verb.
Eat is an Infinitive. We will learn this next.
Like is also a Finite verb. This is because ‘like’ is related to the subject ‘you’, and it is in the Present Tense.
Now that you know about Finite Verbs, let’s learn about Infinitives. The name INFINITIVE surely is a complex one! But, don’t you worry.
I’m sure you know what ‘Infinite’ means, it’s something without end. For instance, the infinite Universe; or God’s infinite Love.
Similarly, in English, INFINITIVES are not bound (related) with time, such as the Past, Present or Future. Thus, they do not have a tense.
Also, an Infinitive is an unmarked Verb or in simple terms – the most simplest form of a Verb.
Some common examples of Infinitives are Sit, Run, Eat, Live, Die, etc….
Did you know – When you look for words in a dictionary, most Verbs are given in their Infinitive form.
Another important point about Infinitives is that they are not used as a Verb. Instead, they act as a Noun (subject or object). For example,
To err is human.
Here, To err is the Infinitive Verb, and it is used as a Noun (subject of the sentence)
- or an Adjective (something that describes a noun). For example,
The person to follow is Jesus.
Here, ‘to follow‘ is the Infinitive Verb, and even though it is a verb, it is used as an Adjective (it describes the person).
- or an Adverb (something that describes a Verb). For example,
I came here to thank you.
Here, ‘to thank’ is the Infinitive Verb, and it is used as an Adverb ( it answers why an action ‘came here‘ occurred ?).
Let’s discuss another example,
I decided to stay at home.
In this sentence, ‘I’ is the Noun (subject),
‘decided’ is the Finite Verb,
and ‘to stay’ is the Infinitive.
Here the Infinitive ‘to stay’ is used as an Adverb (it describes what ‘I’ decided?).
Two forms of Infinitives
Furthermore, there are two types of Infinitives.
- The bare Infinitive (or as some call it the zero-Infinitive) and
- The to-Infinitive.
An Infinitive Verb in its base form.
Examples – eat, drink, have, do, etc…
Now, let’s look at an example sentence for a bare Infinitive;
I can stay here.
In this sentence, ‘stay’ is the bare-Infinitive.
An Infinitive Verb with the word ‘to‘ before it.
Examples – to eat, to drink, to have, to do, etc….
An example sentence for a to-Infinitive;
I decided to stay at home.
Here, to stay is a to-Infinitive, and decided is a Finite Verb.
Voila, now you know about INFINITIVES.
I hope this lesson has provided you with a better understanding of Finite Verbs and Infinitives. By now, you would have realised that learning Grammar is not Rocket-Science. It’s easy and not as challenging as it seems. Remember, there is a hidden logic behind everything and most of the times the underlying structure is not complicated. That being said, for IELTS test-takers, it is imperative(crucial) that you know Grammar. This is true for anyone who desires a score a band 7 or higher in IELTS.
Justus has talents that excite wonder and admiration. Founder of Ask Learning, he is a wiz-kid who later found his passion in writing. As a calm and diligent individual, most students find a guiding light under his leadership. He teaches crafty structures in IELTS writing and gives a complete hand holding in it. He pulls off amazing methods to cope with grammar troubles students usually have. You may contact Justus on his Official email id.
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