Non-Finite Forms of Verbs Examples and Exercises

There are three groups of non-finites.

  1. The Infinitive:

To write, to speak, to break.  (Present Infinitive)

To have written, to have spoken, to have broken.  (Prefect Infinitive)

  1. The Participle:

Writing, speaking, breaking.  (Present Infinitive)

Written, spoken, broken. (Past Infinitive)

  1. The Gerund or Verbal Noun:

Writing, speaking, breaking.

The infinitives are used both with and without to.

I want to dance.

I ought to have danced.

I can dance.

I could have danced.

In the first two sentences the Infinitives (italicised) are used with to. These are called ‘fo-Infinitives’.

In the last two sentences the Infinitives are use without to. These are called ‘bare Infinitives’.

The Infinitive may sometimes be used as the Subject of a Finite Verb. To steal is wrong.

To find fault is easy.

To play with explosives is dangerous.

To waste your money is foolish.

To eat too much is harmful.

These sentences look awkward. It is better to use a preparatory it as the Subject in each case.

It is wrong to steal.
It is easy to find fault.
It is dangerous to play with explosives.
It is foolish to waste your money.
It is harmful to eat too much.

The same pattern may also be used with a Noun instead of an Adjective preceding the Infinitive.

It is a Shame to shout at women
It is a Mistake to ignore the advice of elders
It is a Pity to destroy these old temples
It is a Pleasure to meet a cheerful person.
It was fun to watch the antics of the clowns

Preparatory it is used when the Subject is the for plus (+) noun (or pronoun) plus (+) to infinitive construction.


It is dangerous for children to play with fire.
It is easy for monkeys to climb trees
It is rude for the young to make fun of their elders.
It is difficult for a deaf person to hear.
It is not safe for children to play in the road.
It is absurd of you to quarrel with a lady.
It was impossible of us to understand her.

We sometimes have following pattern:

It is (was) + adjective + of+ noun (or pronoun) + to-infinitive construction.

It was very kind. of your parents to invite us
It was very good of your uncle to take us to the cinema
It was cruel of those boys to throw stones at birds
It was foolish of your sister to refuse the offer.
It was brave of him to rescue the child.
It was wrong of us to blame the teacher.
It was generous of her to send me this present.

Exercise 1- Rewrite the following sentences, using the introductory word ‘it’:

  1. To walk on the pavement is safe.
  2. To tell lies is wrong.
  3. To call people names is not polite.
  4. To read your writing is difficult.
  5. To miss this opportunity would be a pity.
  6. To deceive your best friend is disgraceful.
  7. To take more than your share of food is selfish.
  8. To live without air is impossible.
  9. To play with explosives is dangerous.
  10. To sit by the fire on a cold evening is pleasant.

Exercise 2 – Express the meaning of the following sentences by using an introductory ‘it’ and an ‘of’ adjunct, as shown below:

  1. She was kind to help us.
    = it was kind of her to help us.
  1. She was kind to help us.
  2. She was rude to say that.
  3. They were stupid to forget the tickets.
  4. She was foolish to sell her ornaments.
  5. Those boys were cruel to throw stones at birds.
  6. Your uncle was very kind to give us a lift in his car.
  7. The policeman was kind to help the children cross the road.
  8. They were wrong to put the blame on their juniors.

Exercise 3 – Rewrite each of the following sentences in such a way that the verb printed in italics is replaced by an infinitive. Make other necessary changes:

  1. They say that she is very rich.
    = She is said to be very rich.
  1. They say that she is very
  2. We were surprised when we heard the news.
  3. The captain was the last man who left the sinking ship.
  4. It was believed that she was innocent.
  5. He expects that we shall
  6. We believed that she was
  7. It was known that he was a great liar.
  8. The governor ordered that the house should be
  9. I hope I shall meet you again soon.
  10. The teachers expected that Tony would get a first class.


To is very commonly used with the Infinitive, but it is not a necessary sign of the Infinitive. The following Verbs take the Infinitive without to :

  1. The Principal Verb: Can, must, let, make, bid, dare, please, need : and also Verb denoting some kind of perception : see, feel, hear, know, watch, etc.

He can run very fast. [= He is able to run very fast.]

You must go. [= You are commanded to go.]

Let him stand there. Bid him do it.

I bade him go there. Please go there.

You need not go there. Make her sit.

You dare not do it I saw him win the race.

I felt him touch me.   I heard her sing.

NOTE : In Affirmative sentences ‘to’ is generally used after the verb dare; as,

He dared to defy me. He dared to oppose her.

  1. The Auxiliary Verbs: Do, shall, will, may, might, should, would.

He does not like her.

Will you come with me?

Also when they are used as Principal Verbs.

You may go. [= You are allowed to go.]

I will do it. [= I am willing to do it.]

He shall go. [= He is compelled to go.]

  1. The infinitive without to is used after had better, had rather, had sooner, would rather, sooner than, had rather than; as,

You had better read this book.

I would rather die than suffer all this.

I would rather dance than sing.

I would sooner run than walk.

  1. To-before the Infinitive is omitted after than, and after but in the sense of expect; as,

She is better able to sing than dance.

She did no more than weep.

She did nothing but laugh and sing.

Exercise 4 – Correct the mistakes

  1. The beggar had no bed to lie.
  2. I had rather to play than to work.
  3. You had better to read this book.
  4. She did nothing but to laugh and to sing.
  5. You had better to read this book.
  6. She had no dolls to play.
  7. We made her to confess.
  8. He has some business to attend.
  9. Make that boy to behave himself.
  10. He has a large family to work.

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