Topic 4: Classes of Clauses (1):FINITE & NON-FINITE CLAUSES


• Required Reading

• Introduction: Structural characteristics of a clause

• Finite and non-finite clauses

• The finite clause

• The non-finite Clause

• Forms of  the non-finite Claus

• Structural properties of the non-finite Clauses

• Summary

• Self-Study Questions


ž  At the end of the lesson, the student will be able to:

videntify the structural characteristics of a clause

vdifferentiate between finite and non finite clauses

vdiscuss the forms of the non-finite clauses

videntify finite and non finite clauses in sentences

vConstruct at least four (4) sentences using finite and non-finite  clauses

Required Reading

žDowning, A. (2015). English Grammar : A  University Course (3rd edn.). London & New  York, NY: Routledge.


žChapter 2,

(2.4.1 Classes of clauses,Finite and non-finite clauses)

Key Words

Find the meaning of the following key  words in the internet and write them  down in your notebook:

1.clausal elements


3.finite (verb)

4.non-finite (verb)


6.modal verb / modality




structural characteristics of a clause

In the previous weeks,we have defined the clause according to the scale,characterizing it as the highest grammatical rank and analyzableinto lower ranks.

In terms of structure, we can define the  clause as any construction which is  analyzable into one or more clausal  elements (e.g. Subject, Predicator, Object,  etc.) and normally has a verbal group in its  structure.

žThe following constructions are all clauses:

1.I am coming home.

2.To be a man

3.Flying aeroplanes

žWe can analyze them as follows:

1.I / am / coming / home. (Subj. + Finite +  Pred. + Adjunct)

2.To be / a man (Predicator + Complement)

3.Flying / aeroplanes (Predicator + Object)

How many clauses are in the following text? Identify  each clause and write down your answers for  discussion with your tutor:

After finishing a raft of exercise focusing on  clause-chunking, I realized that there isn’t a  definite right or wrong analysis of English  grammar. Different grammar can be used on  different occasions. However, I did find out  several principles that are commonly applied in  clause-chunking.” (from a Learning Journal by  Ruby)

žBy analyzing structural characteristics of a  clause (i.e. according to the form of the  verb), we arrive at three main classes,  namely:

(1)finite clause,

(2)non-finite clause, and

(3)verbless clause.

žThis week’s lesson focuses on finite and  non-finite clauses.


Classes of clause according to structure

ž There are many class distinctions that can be made  at the rank of a clause. One of these distinctions is  between

–Finite clause; and

–Non-finite clause.

ž It should be noted that the verbal element is central  to the clause and the status of the clause (as finite or  non-finite) is dependent on the form of the verb  chosen.

                                      The Finite Clause

žA finite clause is a main clause  or a subordinate clause that has a  finite verb.a finite verb is a verb that indicate tense (present,past) or modality

Consider the underlined clauses (where (1) is  a main clause and (2) a subordinate clause)  below:

1.She writes books. (Note: the verb is present,  and the subject She agrees in number with  the verb writes. They are both third person  singular)

2.He said that he loves me. (Note: the verb loves  is present, and the subject he agrees in number  with the verb)

other examples finite clauses are italized below

Main clauses

1.The fishermen are mending their net.

2.We dined at a cheap restaurant.

3.She must be feeling sick.

4.I was watching TV. 


Subordinate clauses

5.That you don’t like yoghurt surprises me.

6.I am sure that things will get better.

7.That is why I came here.

ž  Please identify the finite verbs in the highlighted clauses  for discussion with your tutor

Non-finite clauses

žNon-finite clauses have no finite verbs  (i.e. no ‘tensed verb’ or no modal  verb).


žThat is, they are clauses that do not  express person, tense, or modality.


žIn other words, they are clauses that do  not indicate the past or present tense  and/or number and modality.

 Forms of Non-finite clauses

žNon-finite clauses manifest in four different  ways depending on the form of the verb  group:

1. To-infinitive clause

2.Bare infinitive clause

3.–ing participle clause

4.–ed or –en participle clause

Forms of Non-finite clausesto infinitive

With the to-infinitive clause, the verb  comes after the word “to”. Examples are  highlighted below:

1.They want to hire a caravan.

2.We wanted to go to the seaside.

3.John believes the prisoner to be innocent.

4.Kids like to play on computers.  going  to  the  cinema  to  watch  a  play.


Forms of Non-finite clausesing participle clause

žThe -ing participle clause is also called present  participle clause.

žIn this clause, the verb ends in –ing and there is no  tensed verb before the participle. Examples are  highlighted below:


1.Overtaking a moving vehicle is more dangerous.

2.You are the only one capable of solving the problem.

3.I have a brother living in Accra.

4.We found Ann sitting in the garden.

5.Eating his dinner, he read through a magazine.


Forms of Non-finite clauses-ed participle clause

žThe -ed or -en participle clause is also called past  participle clause. In this clause, the past participle form  of the verb is used. Examples are highlighted below:

1.Excited by the news, Dora shouted for joy.

2.Supported by the World Bank, Ghana overcame the  COVID-19 pandemic.

Trained as an acrobat since young, she has amazed  audiences with her superb skills

žNOTE:  The  verb  form  in  the  ed  or  en

participle clause does not always end in -ed or

-en. This is because some verbs are irregular.  Examples are highlighted below:

1.Taken three times a day, these pills should  clear the rash.

2.Given  another  chance,  he  apologized  for  his misdeeds.

3.The invitations were sent, written by hand.

Forms of Non-finite clauses-bare infinitive

With this type of non-finite clause, the verb

is  in  its  bare  form.  Examples  are  highlighted below:

1.Kyei helped her carry her bags upstairs.

2.Can you help him do his homework?

3.Nobody made me do it.

4.We didn’t see them walk in the street.

5.All I did was turn on the light.

structural properties of non-finite clauses

The non-finite clauses:

–can appear with or without subject;

–can appear with or without a subordinator;

–do not contain modals;

–can take an auxiliary ‘have’ in the –ing or infinitive  forms (e.g. Having spoken to him, my friend accepted to  go.);

–can be in the passive form; and

–are usually embedded or non-embedded subordinate  clauses.


žThe finite clauses have finite verb forms while the non-  finite clauses have non-finite verb forms.


žA finite verb form typically inflects for tense or indicates  modality while a non-finite verb form does not.

žThere are four main types of non-finite clauses: clause

2.bare infinitive participle clause

3.-ing participle clause

4.-ed participle clause


Self study questions

Name the three main classes of clauses  according to the form of the verb.

2.With appropriate examples, distinguish  between finite and non-finite clauses.

3.With appropriate illustrations, discuss the  forms of non-finite clauses.

4.State whether the underlined expression is a finite or a  non-finite clause:

a)I had a farm in Hohoe at the foot of Mount Afadja.

b)We are taking an online class.

c)They arrived home to find that the house had been  burgled.

d)Anyone knowing his whereabouts should contact  the police.

e)I’m afraid asking for special consideration won’t do  any good.


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