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Further Explanation

A non-finite verb (or a verbal) is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not marked by tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person.
As a result, a non-finite verb cannot generally serve as the main verb in an independent clause; rather, it heads a non-finite clause.


A non-finite verb acts simultaneously as a verb and as another part of speech; it can take adverbs and certain kinds of verb arguments, producing a verbal phrase (i.e., non-finite clause), and this phrase then plays a different role — usually noun, adjective, or adverb — in a greater clause. This is the reason for the term verbal; non-finite verbs have traditionally been classified as verbal nouns, verbal adjectives, or verbal adverbs.

English has three kinds of verbals:

1.participles, which function as adjectives;

2.gerunds, which function as nouns; and

3.infinitives, which have noun-like, adjective-like, and adverb-like functions.

Each of these kinds of verbals is also used in various common structures; for example, the past participle is used in forming the perfect aspect (to have done).



A participle is a verbal adjective that describes a noun as being a participant in the action of the verb.

The following sentences contain participles:

  • The talking children angered the teacher. (Here talking modifies children.)
  • Annoyed, Rita ate dinner by herself in the bedroom. (Here annoyed modifies Rita.)

In English, the present participle is used in forming the continuous aspect (to be doing); the past participle is used in forming the passive voice (to be done) and the perfect aspect (to have done).


A gerund is a verbal noun that refers to the action of the verb. In English, a gerund has the same form as a present participle - ending in -ing:

  • Fencing is good exercise. (Here fencing is the subject of is.)
  • Leroy expanded his skills by studying. (Here studying is the object of by.)
  • Infinitives

    In English, the infinitive verb form is often introduced by the particle to, as in to eat or to run. The resulting phrase can then function as a subject or object, or as a modifier.

    • To succeed takes courage, foresight, and luck. (Here to succeed is the subject of takes.)
    • I don't have time to waste. (Here to waste modifies time.)
    • Carol was invited to speak. (Here to speak is the object of invited.)
    • Do not stop to chat. (Here to chat functions as an adverb modifying stop.)

    An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive and any related words.

    • Paul wanted to learn silk screening. (The infinitive phrase to learn silk screening is the object of wanted)

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