April 23, 2005
Introduction to the KISS Workbooks The KISS Homepage

Distinguishing Finite Verbs from Verbals
The Sentence Test

      The last way to distinguish finite verbs from verbals is the simple sentence test. If you are not sure about whether or not to underline a verb twice:

1. Find the subject of that verb by making a question with “Who” or “What” before the verb.
2. Make a simple sentence using that subject and verb – without adding any words, and without changing the form or meaning of the verb.
3. If the sentence does not seem to be an acceptable sentence, the verb is not finite.
Examples

1. They let Bill keep the puppy.

“Keep” is a verb. If we ask “Who or what keep?”, the answer is “Bill.” But “Bill keep the puppy” is not an acceptable sentence, so “keep” is not a finite verb and should not be underlined twice.
2. They saw Bill (DO) walking {by the river}.
“Walking” is a verb. If we ask “Who or what was walking?”, the answer is “Bill.” Thus we try the sentence – “Bill walking by the river.” That is not, however, an acceptable sentence. To make it acceptable, we would have to add “was” – “Bill was walking by the river.” For this test, however, we cannot add words, so “walking” is a verbal -- it should not be underlined twice.
3. Going {to school}, they saw an accident (DO).
“Going” is a verb. If we ask “Who or what is going?”, the answer is “they.” But “they going to school” is not an acceptable sentence, so “going” is not a finite verb and should not be underlined twice.
Remember that the meaning of the verb cannot change in the sentence test. In the following sentence, “told” does not mean that the story told something. Instead it means that the story was told. Thus “told” is a verbal, and not a finite verb.

They liked the story (DO) told {by the teacher}.