I found these sentences from the internet.

1.Finite verbs usually follow their subjects: He coughs.

The documents had compromised him.

They will have gone.

This web said that the bolded segments above are finite verbs

2.The girls were talking to each other loudly.

The second web said that were is finite verb and talking is non-finite verb

I’m confused where finite verbs are.

  • 2
    You're confused because the two websites are using different definitions of finite verbs. One is calling the entire multi-word form of the verb a "finite verb". The other is just calling the finite part of the multi-word form of the verb the "finite verb". Nov 9, 2013 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


From usingenglish.com...

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.

finite I go, she goes, he went.
non-finite To go, going (the infinitive, and the gerund/present participle).

Thus in OP's first three examples, coughs, had compromised, will have gone are "finite" forms of the verbs to cough, to compromise, to go. In the second and third cases, the modal auxiliary verbs will and had/have are the only ways in English to indicate verb tense, aspect, and modality, apart from the endings -s (present tense, third person singular), -ed (past tense), and -ing ("continuous" aspect).

In OP's last example, were is a "tensed" (finite) form indicating past action and plural subject (or second person singular "you"). So those verb forms change for present activity or singular subject, but the "non-finite" present participle talking doesn't...

The girls were talking to John. (past action, plural subject)
The girls are talking to us. (present action, plural subject)
John was talking to me. (past action, singular subject)
John is talking to you. (present action, singular subject)

Also note that it makes no difference whether the object (John, us, me, you) is singular or plural.

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