Non-Finite Verb Forms: Examples, Excercise

A 1 (a) I felt ashamed to face Mrs. Bethy.
1 (a) I wrote a letter announcing my departure.

The underlined expressions are non-finite verbs.

Every simple sentence must have a finite verb and it must agree with the subject. We also know that the first auxiliary in a verb group takes tense and hence it is a finite verb. All other verbs following it in that verb group are non-finite verbs. Non-finite verbs have no agreement with the subject. Let us discuss the following sentences.

2. Non-Finite Verbs.

(a) She could have been laughing at us.
(b) He may have been writing the book.
(c) The book may have been written.

Each of these sentences has four verbs: three auxiliary verbs and one full or main verb. The first modal auxiliary (could, may) is finite. All other verbs including the full verbs (laughing, writing, written) are non-finite verbs.

Non-finite verbs are used quite often. Look at the following sentences. Some of them are not acceptable. Why?

3. Seema writes letters.7 . * Seema write letters.
4. Seema has written the letter.8. * Seema written the letter.
5. Seema is writing the letter.9. * Seema writing the letter.
6. Seema will write the letter.10. * Seema to write the letter.
  1. They made Seema write the letter.
  2. They want Seema to write the letter.
  3. We found on Seema’s table all the letters written and typed.
  4. We saw Seema writing the letter.

Sentences 7–10 above are ungrammatical sentences because they have no finite verbs. We cannot form a sentence with non-finite verbs only. We must use a finite verb in a sentence. However, the non-finite verbs can work as subordinate parts of other sentences as in sentences. 11–14.

  1. (a) Seema wants to write the letter.
    (b) Seema wanted to write the letter.

The finite verb changes from wants to wanted as the tense changes. But the non-finite verb to write does not change because it does not carry any tense.

Non-finite verbs can be one of the four types as given below :

(i) to + verb without any other addition as to write in 12.
(ii) only the verb without any addition as write in 11.
(iii) –en form (third form) of the verb as written in 13.
(iv) –ing form of the verb as writing in 14.

B. Now read the following sentences :

  1. (a) I want to win this match.
  2. (a) I want Bhutia to win this match.
  3. (a) It is easy to win this match.
  4. (a) Bhutia’s goal helped us win this match.

In these sentences to win or win is the non-finite verb. None of them is a part of the verb group. But we can say that non-finite verbs are parts of the clauses reduced to non-finite forms.

Form example:

  1. (b) I will win this match + I want it.
  2. (b) Bhutia will win this match + I want it.
  3. (b) Anyone can win this match + It is easy.
  4. (b) We won this match + Bhutia’s goal helped us.

C. To + verb can work in several ways in a sentence and can come in different positions. Let us see some examples :

  1. To err is human, to forgive divine.
  2. I hope to see you again.
  3. The doctor advised Seema to take some tests.
  4. There is a house to let at the end of the road.
  5. He let out a part of his house to make some extra money.

In 20, what is human? The answer is to err. So, to + verb is the subject of the sentence. In 21, I hope what? So, to + verb is the object of hope. In 22, the doctor advised whom? Seema. The doctor advised what? – to take some rest.

Hence, both these expressions are objects of the verb advised. In 23, there is something at the end of the road. What is it a house to let. Obviously, this noun phrase is the logical subject of this sentence beginning with there.

House is the head noun. To let works as a describing word or functions like an adjective. But in 24 to make some extra money is the purpose for which he let out a part of his house. Hence, the to + verb construction is an adjunct here.

D. Sometimes to + verb may reduce to φ + verb only. Most of the modal auxiliary verbs are followed by φ + verb. For example :

  1. I can swim
  2. He might come.

Verb like let, make, help, have, see, hear, watch, notice are followed by φ + verb (not to + verb). For example :

  1. Please let us go home.
  2. The teacher made us write the word correctly.
  3. I helped my mother clean the kitchen.
  4. I will have the gardener plant these trees.
  5. I saw him cross the road.
  6. I heard her sing a patriotic song.
  7. He watched the kite rise in the sky.
  8. I did not notice you raise your hand.
    Expressions like had better and would rather are followed by φ + verb (not to + verb).
  9. You had better leave this place.
  10. I would rather look into it.

E. The non-finite verbs after the following ones are usually to + verb :

  1. I hope to see you soon.
  2. He requested me to help him.
  3. They expected to travel by air.
  4. They expected me to travel by air.

In 37, to + verb comes after the full verb. No other words can come between them. Other verbs of this type are begin, deserve, prefer, try, remember, etc.

In 38, there is a Noun Phrase (noun or pronoun) between the verb and to + verb. Other verbs of this type are advise, allow, command, compel, force, instruct, invite, order, permit, remind, tell, etc.

Now compare 39 with 40. Verbs like expect can be followed immediately by to + verb. They can also take a noun phrase between the main verb and to + verb. Other verbs of this type are ask, like, want, etc.

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