Topic: Finite and nonfinite clauses

A finite clause contains a verb marked for tense, whereas a nonfinite clause does not.

Nonfinite clauses in literature

In this activity, students look at how nonfinite clauses might be used in their own writing and that of others to vary the structure of a text. On one level, this is about creating something that people like to read: something that is interesting, varied and engaging and designed to hook the reader or suit the style you are hoping to adopt. On another level, it’s about students showing teachers and examiners that they know about different forms and can use them in their writing.

Past participles in composition

This activity involves working with nonfinite clauses to do some sentence-splitting and sentence-joining. The purpose is to develop your awareness of the different kinds of structures that are available to you as a writer.

Past participles in composition: Activity 1

His report, published yesterday, demands fundamental changes in the way safety is regulated in the North Sea. →

His report was published yesterday. It demands fundamental changes in the way safety is regulated in the North Sea.

Invented in the late sixties, the melotron used a complicated system of loop tape recordings to achieve an effect similar to sampling. →

Past participles in composition: Activity 2

Beckett’s early work was written in English over the period from 1929 to 1938. It seems restless, nomadic. →

Written in English over the period from 1929 to 1938, Beckett’s early work seems restless, nomadic.

The electromagnetic bell was patented in 1878 by Thomas Watson. It is rugged, reliable and loud enough to be heard from some appreciable distance. →

Present participles in composition

This activity involves working with nonfinite clauses to do some sentence-splitting and sentence-joining. The purpose is to develop your awareness of the different kinds of structures that are available to you as a writer.

Present participles in composition: Activity 1

Returning to the area after the War, Pissaro largely retained the same fiction about Louveciennes. →

Pissaro returned to the area after the War. He largely retained the same fiction about Louveciennes.

Having fallen completely from view since May, he finds another window suddenly beckoning. →

Present participles in composition: Activity 2

I arrived just before lunch. I looked for Harry Frampton in the dining room. →

Arriving just before lunch, I looked for Harry Frampton in the dining room.

The ZR-1 looked little different from the normal Corvette. It performed like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. →

Finite or nonfinite?

In each of the following sentences, indicate whether the highlighted verb is finite or nonfinite.

Clauses: Finite and nonfinite clauses

Look at each of these examples. Do they have present tense or past tense? Can we change the tense?

  • She feels sick.
  • I was watching TV.

In the first example, we have the present tense verb form feels. We could change to past tense: She felt sick.

In the second example, the verb phrase was watching contains the past tense form was. We could change to the present tense: I am watching TV.

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