English Verb: Infinitives and Non-Finites
To understand the difference between a finite verb and non-finite verb, look at these sentence:
1. he kills a snake.
2. To kill a snake requires courage.
In sentence 1, ‘he’ is the subject of the verb ‘kill’. Therefore, it is controlled by the number and person of the subject. It cannot go beyond the domain of the subject. Therefore, it is a Finite Verb.
A Finite verb agrees in number and person with its subject.
In sentence 2, ‘To kill” expresses the action independently as a verbal noun. In the absence of its subject it functions as the subject of the verb ‘requires’. Thus its meaning in the form of an action is not governed by any subject, person or number. In other words its meaning is infinte. Hence it is termed as non-finite or infinite.
Infinite or Non-finite is the verb the meaning of which is not limited by subject, person or number.
Non finites are three types.
Infinitive, Gerund and Participle are the forms of the Verbs which function as Nouns, Adjectives or Adverbs. They have no Predicate of their own. They cannot, by themselves, perform the full function of a Finite Verb. They are not limited by number and person. They have no subject, no tense and take no modals.
(To + Verb)
The infinitive is the form of a verb which mentions in the abstract of the action expressed by the Verb. Generally ‘to’ is placed before the Present (crude) form of the verb to form the Infinitives. As – to come, to go, to stand etc. But sometimes, the infinitive appears without to. The infinitives which do not have ‘to’ before them are termed as ‘bare Infinitives’.
Use of Infinitive with ‘To’:
(a) After a Verb as an Adverb (called the infinitive of Purpose):
He stood to welcome me.
My father went to the college to see the Principal.
(a) After an Adjective as an Adverb:
I am delighted to see you here.
She was astonished to hear the news.
Some of the adjectives used in this manner are: amazed, disgusted, disappointed, astonished, glad, happy, horrified, sad, surprised.
(b) After a Noun or Pronoun as an Adjective:
He has many books to read.
I need water to drink
I wish you to get a good job.
(c) After the verbs of Understanding: know, feel, suppose, understand, consider, feel, think etc:
He knows how to drive the car.
I consider him to be intelligent.
Note: These verbs used as main verbs can be followed by object + to be:
I consider him to be the best boy.
(d) After Adjective/Adverb + enough:
He is mature enough to understand it.
She is rich enough to lend you money.
(e) After too + adjective/adverb:
He is too young to understand.
It is too late to do anything now.
(f) After how/when/where/what + to infinitive
I don’t know how to swim.
She did not know what to do.
Can you tell me where to find them?
How can I say when to leave?
(g) After it is/was + adjective + for/of you/him etc.
It is good of her to help you.
It was brave of him to catch the thief.
It is important for the students to understand this lesson.
(h) To join two sentences in place of clause.
1. I went to the college. I met the Principal.
I went to the college to meet the Principal.
2. He went to the playground. He wanted to play.
He went to the playground to play.
3. She was the first woman who saw the accident.
She was the first woman to see the accident.
4. The lady rushed home. She found her safe broken.
The lady rushed home to find her safe broken.
(i) The infinitive is used after only to express a disappointing sequel.
He went to the house only to find it burning.
He survived the crash only to die in the river.
(j) After the first, the second etc. the last, the only and sometimes after superlatives:
He was the first to win a prize.
She was the best actor to act in this play.
The Infinitive is a Verbal Noun. It can be used instead of a Noun and it performs all the functions of a Noun, viz.
i. As the Subject of the Verb:
To drink is bad for your health.
To speak the truth is a virtue.
Note: In case of a Dummy subject, ‘It’ is placed in place of ‘to’ Infinitive. In that case the Infinitive ‘to’ becomes the virtual subject.
It is bad for your health to drink.
It is a virtue to speak the truth.
ii. AS the Object to a Verb:
I want to sleep now.
They want to play.
iii. As the Complement of a Verb:
I want to be a professor.
Her object is to marry this man.
iv. As the Object of a Preposition:
She went around to search her necklace.
He sat down to take rest.
v. As an Object Complement:
I told him to distribute the sweets.
We helped them (to) engage a mason.
The Omission of ‘to’
The ‘to’ of the Infinitive is dropped after the verbs ‘bid, dare, let, make, need, observe, have, fall, hear, see, watch, behold’ and all modals except ‘ought’.
I shall go.
You can sit.
I bade him go.
You need not worry.
How dare you come late?
I saw him fall.
I heard him sing.
He helped me stand.
He made me run.
I let him go.
I had him cut my hair.
But ‘to’ is not omitted when:
i. The above mentioned verbs except, ‘let’ are used in the passive voice:
He was seen to ring the bell.
I was made to stand.
The postman was heard to knock at the door.
The bucket was let fall into the well.
ii. When ‘dare’ is used in the affirmative:
I dare to say this.
He dared to oppose his elder brother.
(a) But in the negative, ‘to’ following need/dare (modal auxiliaries) is dropped.
I dare not go before him.
You need not go there.
But when need and dare are used in the form of main verbs, ‘do’ (auxiliary verb) and ‘to’ (infinitive) are not dropped.
Do you dare to do it?
I don’t dare to go near him.
Does Mohsin need to go there?
I don’t need to go there as he himself is coming.
(b) After the modals:
You may go now.
She will pass this year.
They do not like sweets.
(c) After ‘but’ and ‘except’:
I could not but laugh.
You do nothing but talk.
He does everything except deceive his friends.
(d) After had better, had rather, would rather etc. and ‘than’:
You had better pay the bill.
He had rather retire than work.
I would rather starve than beg.
You should be punctual than irregular.
But we say
You ought to obey your teachers.
She ought to have gone there.
When two or more Infinitives are joined by ‘and’
To err is human and forgive divine.
I asked him to go home and bring money.
Mark the difference
He appears to be rich. (At the present moment)
He appears to have been rich. (In the past)
VERBS FOLLOWED BY THE INFINITIVE OR BY OBJECT + INFINITIVE
manage, cease, seem, decide, regret, try, attempt, consent, agree, neglect, promise, swear, learn, remember, ask, fail, care, prepare, decide, determine, help, expect, refuse, endeavour, tell, claim, long, mean, offer, pretend.