A finite clause is a main clause or a subordinate clause that must have a verb to show tense. The verb can be in the present tense or past tense. The tense can be changed from the present tense to the past tense or past tense to the present tense. Because the verb in the present tense or past tense is called a finite verb, the clause that contains a finite verb is called a finite clause.
- The fishermen are mending their nets.
(Present tense is used in the finite/main clause.)
- We dined at a cheap restaurant last night.
(Past tense used in the finite/main clause.)
- We were not allowed in because we arrived late.
(Past tense is used in the main clause [finite clause] we were not allowed in and in the subordinate clause [finite clause] because we arrived late.)
A non-finite clause is a subordinate clause that is based on a to-infinitive or a participle. It contains a verb that does not show tense, which means it does not show the time at which something happened. There are three types of nonfinite clauses.
a) To-infinitive clause
In this clause, the verb comes after the word to.
- He gave up his job to travel the world.
- We wanted to ask her to come along.
- The person to make the report to at the police station was the Sergeant.
b) Present participle clause (or –ing clause)
In this clause, the verb ending in – ing is used.
- He is a thoroughly spoilt child being the only one in the family.
- You are the only one capable of solving the problem.
- Before becoming a bank robber, he was a police officer.
- Seeing no employment prospect, he became self-employed.
c) Past participle clause
In this clause, the past participle form of the verb is used.
- Trained as an acrobat since young, she has amazed audiences with her superb skills.
- All the children, gathered in that group, were ready to perform a traditional dance.
- A woman recognized as one of the hostages was found unharmed in the building.
- The child intends to be a bank robber when asked what he would like to be.
A subordinate conjunction is often used to begin a non-finite clause. The subordinate conjunctions used here are if, unless, though.
- Her appointment, if approved, will make her the company’s first female General Manager.
- The police, unless notified, will not carry out an investigation.
- The rescuers found the boy, though injured, fully conscious.