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Finite and nonfinite verbs, Auxiliary verbs

4.5 Finite and Nonfinite Verbs

Verbs which have the past or the present form are called FINITE verbs. Verbs in any other form (infinitive, -ing, or -ed) are called NONFINITE verbs. This means that verbs with tense are finite, and verbs without tense are nonfinite. The distinction between finite and nonfinite verbs is a very important one in grammar, since it affects how verbs behave in sentences. Here are some examples of each type:  





Finite or Nonfinite?

David plays the piano



My sister spoke French on holiday



It took courage to continue after the accident

NONE -- the verb has the infinitive form


Leaving home can be very traumatic

NONE -- the verb has the -ing form


Leave immediately when you are asked to do so

NONE -- the verb has the -ed form



4.6 Auxiliary Verbs

In the examples of -ing and -ed forms which we looked at, you may have noticed that in each case two verbs appeared: 

[1] The old lady is writing a play 
[2] The film was produced in Hollywood 

Writing and produced each has another verb before it. These other verbs (is and was) are known as AUXILIARY VERBS, while writing and produced are known as MAIN VERBS or LEXICAL VERBS. In fact, all the verbs we have looked at on the previous pages have been main verbs. 

Auxiliary verbs are sometimes called HELPING VERBS. This is because they may be said to "help" the main verb which comes after them. For example, in The old lady is writing a play, the auxiliary is helps the main verb writing by specifying that the action it denotes is still in progress. 

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