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 very useful for ESL learners from South Asia, especially India. We will start with defining a Verb and move to the main topic – Finite Verbs. We will master Finite Verbs with a few examples. Then, 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.
There are a few conditions to identify a Finite Verb. These are:
- The verb should be related to the Subject (Noun).
- And the Verb should also indicate the Tense (shows if it is in the past, present or future).
- All Modal Auxiliary Verb ( Helping Verbs) are Finite Verbs.
NOTE – A sentence can have more than one Finite Verb.
Let’s discuss a few sentences with Finite Verbs,
Angel teaches IELTS.
Here, teaches is a Verb and it relates to the Noun (Angel).
Moreover, teaches is in the Present Tense.
Thus, teaches is a Finite Verb.
Angel is teaching IELTS.
Here, ‘is’ is a verb and it relates to Angel.
Moreover, ‘is’ is in the present (continuous) tense.
Thus, ‘is’ is a Finite Verb.
Angel was teaching IELTS.
Here ‘was’ is a verb and it relates to Angel.
Moreover, ‘was’ is in the past tense.
Thus, ‘was’ is a Finite verb.
Do you know that no sentence can be formed without a Finite Verb!
Now you might wonder, isn’t ‘teaching’ a verb?
Certainly, it is a Verb. But, it is a different kind of Verb, called Participle. We will learn 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.
On another note, 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 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 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 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 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 I came here?).
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.
Now, I know that you have a better understanding of Finite Verbs and Infinitives. By the end of the lesson, 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.
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