Nonfinite Verbs

Non-finite verbs do not have tense and do not follow the subject's number and person. All the verbs in English are either Non-finite or Finite. 


There are three types of nonfinite verbs in English. They are: (i) Infinitive, (ii) Participle, and (iii) Gerund. 


An infinitive is the base form of verb with a 'to' placed before it. That is, infinitive = to + verb. Infinitives are non-finite verbs and do not follow the subject's number and person. 

  • She wants to live in Canada.
  • I have to go to college.

The infinitive of a verb is its "base" form (listed in dictionaries). They are formed by adding the particle 'to' before the 'verb'. Infinitives introduced by 'to' function as noun phrases, adjective phrase, or adverbial phrase. 

Types of Infinitives

There are two types of infinitives:

(i) Full Infinitive or To Infinitive, and

(ii) Bare Infinitive

(i) Full Infinitive (To + Verb): 

To make a full infinitive, we add an Infinitive Marker 'to' before the base form of the verb. So, many people like to call it 'To Infinitive'. 

  • He wants to learn grammar.
  • It is easy to say but difficult to do

Use of Full Infinitives

You have already known that infinitives are 'to + verbs' that function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. Here are some examples. 

Infinitives as Nouns: 

Infinitives as nouns does the functions of subjects, objects, or complements. Here are some examples.

  • Subject: To read is my gobby.
  • Object: I love to read.
  • Complement: My hobby is to read.

Infinitives as Adjective: 

Infinitives as adjectives modify nouns. Look at the following examples.

  • I don’t have time to read.
  • The reason to read is to get pleasure.

Infinitives as Adverb: 

Infinitives as adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Look at the following examples.

  • He comes to play with us.
  • We read to learn

(ii) Bare Infinitive: 

Bare Infinitives are infinitives without 'to'.

  • I heard her sing. 
  • Let us go out for a walk. 

Use of Bare Infinitive: 

There no hard and fast rules to use bare infinitives. That is, you need to commit them to memory. Here are some important places where bare infinitives are used:

(i) We use bare infinitives after certain verbs like bid, let, make, see, hear, need, dare, etc. 

  • Let us get up from bed and go out for a walk.
  • Teachers help us learn.
  • You need not come with me. 
  • We made her dance.

(ii) The bare infinitive is also used after the modal verbs will, would, shall, should, may, might, can, could and must.

  • You will sing and I shall dance.
  • None can deny the truth.
  • One should do one's duty.
  • You may go now.

(iii) The infinitive without to is also used after had better, would rather, sooner than and rather than.

  • I would rather be a sparrow than a snail. 
  • You had better go home. 


A participle is the -ING or -ED form of verb functioning as adjective. There are three types of participles: (i) present participle, (ii) past participle, and (iii) perfect participle. Participles do not have tense, and do not follow the subject's number and person. 

Present Participle

A present participle is an -ING form of verb working as an adjective. Participles modify nouns or pronouns. 

  • I saw her going to college.
  • Don't disturb the sleeping dog. 

Past Participle

Most past participles are formed by adding -ED to the base form of verbs; but irregular verbs have special past participle forms which you need to memorise. Past participles also function as adjectives and modify nouns and pronouns. 

  • She saw a broken bridge. 
  • Police recovered the stolen money. 

Perfect Participle

Perfect participles are phrases like having + past participle of the main verb. 

  • Having finished the work, I went home. 
  • She came here having forgotten her purse. 


If an -ING form of verb functions as a noun, we call it GERUND.


Functions of Gerund

Like a noun, gerund does the job of a subject, object, and subject complement.

(a) Subjects of Verbs:

  • Learning makes a full man. 
  • Walking is a good exercise. 

(b) Objects of Verbs:

  • I love dancing.
  • I hate telling lies. 

(c) Objects of prepositions:

  • I am fond of dancing
  • None can live without eating

(d) Subject Complements:

  • Seeing is believing.
  • My hobby is reading

(d) Compound Noun:

  • The frying pan is new. 
  • She's in the swimming pool.

Some Special Use of Gerund

(e) Gerund is used after with a view to, addicted to, was used to, prefer to, object to, confess to: 

  • The virtuous look forward to receiving reward in the next world.  
  • I went there with a view to seeing him.

(f) Gerund is used after cannot help, cannot bear, feel, like, worth, prefer: 

  • I cannot help laughing.
  • I cannot bear suffering.
  • The book is worth reading.
  • I prefer sleeping to reading.

(g) Gerund is used after would you mind:

  • Would you mind taking a cup of tea?
  • Would you mind opening the window? 

Verbal Nouns

Verbal nouns are formed from verbs. All the gerunds are verbal nouns. (But all the verbal nouns are not gerunds.) Apart from gerunds, there are two more types of verbal nouns. 

Formation of Verbal Nouns:

1. Verbal nouns are formed by adding -ING to the base form of verbs.

Verbal Noun = Verb + ING=Noun

  • Cats love sleeping
  • Singing is a good pastime. 

2. Some verbal nouns are formed by adding 'the' before a gerund and 'of' after it. 

Verbal Noun: The + -ING Verb + of 

  • I love the singing of Bonya. 
  • The setting of the sun marks the end of the day. 

3. Some verbal nouns are formed by adding suffixes to the base form of the verb. 

Verbal Noun: Verb + Suffix 

  • Your avoidance makes him sad. [avoidance + avoid + ance]
  • I like his judgement. [judgement + judge + ment]