Verbals

Every word that’s used in a sentence can be put into its own category, depending on its use and function within the sentence. These categories are what we know as parts of speech. For instance, words that name a person, place, or thing, we put in the “noun” category, and words that show action are put in the “verb” category.

Sometimes, words that are usually categorized as one part of speech can act as other parts of speech. In this video, we’ll be discussing verbals, words that are formed from a verb but act as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

There are three types of verbals: gerunds, participles, and infinitives.

Let’s take a look at gerunds first.

Gerunds

A gerund is a word that is created with a verb but functions as a noun and always ends in -ing. Because a gerund is a noun, it can function as a subject, a subject complement, a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition.

Here is an example of a gerund in the subject position:

Brushing your hair can prevent tangles.

 

Brushing is an action that is being done, which would normally make it a verb. However, notice that the act of brushing has become the thing that the sentence is about. We know that “things” fall into the noun category, so the word brushing is a gerund functioning as the subject of the sentence.

If a gerund were to be the direct object of a sentence, it would look like this:

Landon loves hiking through the woods.

 

Again, we can see that the word hiking is an action, but in this case, the act of hiking is a gerund acting as the direct object of the sentence because it answers the question “What does Landon love.”

Participles

Gerunds are often confused with our next type of verbal: participles. A participle is a word that is created from a verb but used as an adjective to modify a noun in a sentence.

Present participles always end in -ing and correlate to events taking place in the current tense. Past participles often end in -ed and refer to events that have already happened.

It’s important to note that though present participles may look a lot like gerunds, they are not the same thing. Gerunds are specifically placed in the noun position of a sentence, whereas participles are placed in the adjective position.

Here’s a sentence that contains a participle:

The browning fruit should be put outside for composting.

 

We generally think of the word browning as a verb, but in this case, browning is being used as a present participle (noted by the -ing ending) to modify the noun fruit.

Here’s another example:

Alarmed, the feasting mice scattered to avoid being seen by the cat.

 

In this sentence, there are two participles. The word alarmed is a past-tense verb that is being used as an adjective to describe mice, so it is a past participle. The word feasting is a present-progressive tense verb, which means that the action is ongoing. It is also being used to describe mice, so it is a present participle.

Infinitives

Finally, let’s take a look at infinitives. An infinitive is the basic, present-tense form of a verb and is almost always preceded by the word to. Infinitives can be used as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

Here’s an example of an infinitive being used as a noun:

Kyle wants to cook dinner tonight.

 

In this case, the infinitive to cook is being used as the direct object, answering the question “What does Kyle want.”

Here’s an example of an infinitive being used as an adverb:

To win the game, you must collect all of the cards.

 

In this case, the infinitive to win is being used as part of an adverbial phrase that tells us why all of the cards must be collected.

Here’s one more example:

If you need advice, Kierra is the person to ask.

 

In this case, the infinitive to ask is being used as an adjective to describe person, telling us which person Kierra is.


Okay, to wrap things up, let’s go over a few review questions.

1. What is the word learning in the following sentence?

Olivia likes learning about new places around the world.

  1. A gerund
  2. A past participle
  3. A present participle
  4. An infinitive
The correct answer is A.

The verb learning ends in -ing and is acting as a noun, so we know that it must be a gerund.

 

2. What is the infinitive in the following sentence?

  1. to the train station
  2. I walked
  3. to meet
  4. my friends

I walked to the train station to meet my friends.

The correct answer is C.

The infinitive to meet is acting as an adverb describing the verb walked. Though the phrase to the train station starts with the word to, it is a prepositional phrase, not an infinitive. An easy way to tell the difference between a prepositional phrase and an infinitive is by looking for a verb. An infinitive contains some form of a verb, while a prepositional phrase does not.

 

3. Which word in the following sentence is the past participle?

The edited paper received a much higher grade than the original draft.

  1. received
  2. much
  3. than
  4. edited
The correct answer is D.

The verb edited is acting as an adjective describing the word paper, so edited is a past participle. Though the word received does end in –ed, it is acting as a normal past-tense verb in this sentence.

 

All right, that’s all for this review. Thanks for watching, and happy studying!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: November 22, 2022