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What is the difference between "I am finished" and "I have finished"?

For example, when finishing a task, should I say "I have finished" or "I am finished". Is there a difference in meaning?

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8 Answers 8

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Depending on context they could have the same or slightly different meanings

I have finished

would be said after completing a task either very recently or some time in the recent past

I am finished

would be said after very recently completing a task.

It can also have the meaning of hopelessness as a person faces impending doom

I've lost everything, I'm finished.

or drawing a dramatic end to a relationship

She said she was finished with her boyfriend.

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  • I would say that they are nearly identical except that "I have finished" cannot signify your second (dramatic) version of "I am finished". As a response to the "are you finished?", they are identical. when reporting back after a task, I think people are more likely to use "I am finished". It's just a choice for all uses except the dramatic one.
    – Bill K
    Oct 18, 2016 at 23:06
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    @BillK Out of context "I am finished" is much more likely to be interpreted as despair. If someone asks you "Are you finished?" the natural response is "I am finished". If you are asked "Have you finished?" the natural response is "I have finished" to match the verb in the question.
    – CJ Dennis
    Oct 18, 2016 at 23:31
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You could say either one, but things get more complicated when you elaborate and mention what you've finished:

I have finished this task.

I am finished with this task.

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    It's true that for the sense I have completed the activity I was engaged in you could actually use either of OP's two 3-word statements. But in practice I think although very young children might be more likely to say I am finished (because of how pre-adolescent / infantile self-awareness and perception work), I'd be pretty certain that the vast majority of adult native speakers would say I have finished (you tell people what you've done, rather than explicitly describing your current state). Oct 18, 2016 at 15:35
  • (As in: children say I'm scared! where adults are more likely to say This is scary!) Oct 18, 2016 at 15:37
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    @Fumble I'd be more likely to say I finished (no have) or I'm done.
    – user230
    Oct 18, 2016 at 15:45
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    @snailplane: I'd be more likely to just sit quietly and wait for others to catch up, if there were several of us doing whatever it was. Unless it was a competition, in which case I'd just yell "Finished!" and expect them all to gasp in amazement. Or facetiously, "Finished, Miss!". It's not that easy to imagine actually saying all and only the three words in OP's examples. Oct 18, 2016 at 16:42
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Both are grammatically correct.

I am finished

The speaker is in the state of being finished with a task.

I have finished

This describes the completion of the task in the very recent past. (present perfect tense)

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I think there are actually three factors we're discussing here:

  • "To Be Finished", where "Finished" is an adjective meaning 'completed' or 'over'
  • The prepositional phrase "To Be Finished With Something" which means the speaker is no longer interested or involved with Something
  • "To Have Finished (Something)", meaning something has been completed.

Here are some examples:

  • "You are finished! You will never work in this city again!"
  • "I have finished my homework. My homework is finished."
  • "I can't take another step, I'm finished, I'm through."
  • "Sir, you haven't finished your steak."
  • "No, I'm finished with this steak, waiter. You can clear my plate."

I relate it to French, where "Je suis fini" (I am finished/dead/over) has a much different meaning than "J'ai fini" (I have finished / I'm done).

Also, this is just grammatically speaking. I live in western Canada, and we certainly don't speak this way colloquially.

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You should probably not say "I am finished" in most situations as this implies that your life is at an end. It is the "I" that is finished - i.e. close to death or some sort of catastrophic failure.

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  • That's a bit harsh. Usage in my experience is more of a temporary issue, like when completing IronMan "I have finished; I am finished!"
    – MikeP
    Oct 19, 2016 at 2:51
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Grammatically, both are correct, but they are linguistically different.

The first sentence does, in fact describe the speaker as in the state or condition of being finished, specifically with the task of washing the dishes. This construction is the more passive of the two.

The second version describes more accurately the completion of the task as the point of reference for the listener.

To put it another way, the first sentence commands the listener to wait until the speaker is in the condition of being finished, the second says to wait until the action is completed.

The example I'm using is the following:

'Wait until I am finished washing the dishes' vs. 'Wait until I have finished washing the dishes'

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I am finished is generally used to describe a situation where I am done and want to put an end(or there is no hope for me for that action or thing or person or anything like that.) to life or any action like I am finished with my life. or I am finished with you. while I have finished is used to say that I have completed an action like I have finished that book.

Here is an example... I am finished with the classes means I do not want to attend the classes anymore due to the teacher or I don't understand that subject.

I have finished the classes means there is a confirmation that I have completed the classes.

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"I am finished." Here 'finished' is an adjective. "I have finished." Here 'finished' is the past participle form of the verb 'finish'.

Former one explains the state of being finished. It talks about the subject "I". It usually comes with a preposition like "With".

E.g., I am finished with homework.

Note: "I am finished" (without object) means you're fed up with your life, and you don't have a reason to live your life.

Later one is a sentence in present perfect tense. It may take an object as a complement to the sentence.

E.g., I have finished homework.

Note: Here there is no preposition before the object.

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