A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand by their own as complete sentences.
The finite forms of a verb are the forms where the verb shows tense, person or singular plural. Non-finite verb forms have no person, tense or number.
I go, she goes, he went - These verb forms are finite.
To go, going, gone - These verb forms are non-finite.
In most Indo-European languages, every grammatically complete sentence or clause must contain a finite verb; sentence fragments not containing finite verbs are described as phrases or minor sentences. In Latin and some Romance languages, however, there are a few words that can be used to form sentences without verbs, such as Latin ecce, Portuguese eis, French voici and voilà, and Italian ecco, all of these translatable as here ... is or here ... are. Some interjections can play the same role. Even in English, a sentence like Thanks for your help! has an interjection where it could have a subject and a finite verb form (compare I appreciate your help!).
In English, as in most related languages, only verbs in certain moods are finite. These include:
- the indicative mood (expressing a state of affairs); e.g., "The bulldozer demolished the restaurant," "The leaves were yellow and stiff."
- the imperative mood (giving a command).
- the subjunctive mood (expressing something that might or might not be the state of affairs, depending on some other part of the sentence).
Verb forms that are not finite include: