A finite element model, based upon the shallow water equations, is used to calculate tidal amplitudes and currents for two field-scale test problems. Because tides are characterized by line spectra, the governing equations are subjected to harmonic decomposition. Thus the solution variables are the real and imaginary parts of the amplitude of sea level and velocity rather than a time series of these variables. The time series is recovered through synthesis. This scheme, coupled with a modified form of the governing equations, leads to high computational efficiency and freedom from excessive numerical noise. Two test-cases are presented. The first is a solution for eleven tidal constituents in the English Channel and southern North Sea, and three constituents are discussed. The second is an analysis of the frequency response and tidal harmonics for south San Francisco Bay.