Abstract The rate-type constitutive relations of rate-independent metals with isotropic or kinematic hardening at finite elastic–plastic deformations were presented through a phenomenological approach. This approach includes the decomposition of finite deformation into elastic and plastic parts, which is different from both the elastic–plastic additive decomposition of deformation rate and Lee’s elastic–plastic multiplicative decomposition of deformation gradient. The objectivity of the constitutive relations was dealt with in integrating the constitutive equations. A new objective derivative of back stress was proposed for kinematic hardening. In addition, the loading criteria were discussed. Finally, the stress for simple shear elastic–plastic deformation was worked out.