Verbals are words that derive from verbs and thus express an action or state of being, but importantly, they do not function as verbs. Rather, verbals function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
This tip sheet will discuss the three types of verbals: gerunds, participles, and infinitives.
Note: Throughout this tip sheet, underlining is used to identify verbal phrases: gerund phrases, participial phrases, and infinitive phrases. Verbal phrases consist of a verbal along with modifier(s), complement(s), and/or object(s). Verbal phrases function as an extended form of the verbal.
Gerunds are verbals that end in –ing and function as nouns. As such, gerunds can be used as subjects, sub-ject complements, direct objects, indirect objects, or objects of prepositions. Here are some examples:
|1. Being sick is never fun.||<||In sentence 1, the gerund phrase being sick is the subject of the sentence.|
|2. My favourite pastime is hiking.||<||In sentence 2, the gerund hiking is the subject complement.|
|3. In general, Canadians enjoy playing and watching hockey.||<||In sentence 3, the gerund phrase playing and watching hockey is the direct object of the verb enjoy.|
|4. During exam periods most students feel that it is important to give studying their full attention.||<||In sentence 4, the gerund studying is the indirect object of the verb give.|
|5. The boy was excited about spending the summer in the country.||<||In sentence 5, the gerund phrase spending the summer in the country is the object of the preposition about.|
Participles are verbals that function as adjectives; that is, they modify nouns or pronouns. Present participles always end in –ing (and thus look just like gerunds). Past participles most frequently end in –ed, but they may also end in –en, -t, -d, or –n. Here are some examples:
1. Practically steaming with frustration, the commuters wait for their delayed train to arrive.
2. I called for help as soon as I found the hurt bird.
3. Being a hard-working student at the college, Sophie knows her way around the library.
4. The APA states that children exposed to media violence are more likely to be aggressive as adults.
5. The dog looked guiltily toward the chewed and torn shoes lying on the floor.
6. Undeterred by the fact that skiing was proving more challenging than he had imagined, Christopher headed back out onto the slopes.
Remember: gerunds and participles look alike, but they are different. In sentence 6, skiing is a gerund. The participle proving is not used as an adjective here, but rather is used to form the past continuous verb was proving. (See below).
Note: Though participles themselves never function as verbs (they are verbals, after all!), they can combine with auxiliary verbs to form various verb tenses. Here are a few examples:
Infinitives are verbals that consist of the word to plus the simple (or “stem”) form of the verb. Infinitives function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
Here are some examples of how infinitives function as nouns:
|1. To be patient is of the utmost importance in this job.||<||In sentence 1, the infinitive phrase to be patient is the subject of the sentence.|
|2. Since she was a little girl, Polly's dream has always been to write.||<||In sentence 2, the infinitive to write is a subject complement.|
|3. I refuse to accept this behaviour from you!||<||In sentence 3, the infinitive phrase to accept this behaviour from you is the direct object of the verb refuse.|
Here are some examples of how infinities function as adjectives:
4. Don't forget that you have an assignment to complete over the weekend.
5. He had the skills and spirit to win.
Here are some examples of how infinitives function as adverbs:
6. We're practicing to improve our pronunciation.
7. She plays to win.
For more information on the differences between gerunds, participles, and infinitives, and for tips on how to use verbals correctly in your writing, please refer to the following websites:
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