More About Verbals


Verbals are very useful structures, allowing a writer to express ideas that cannot be expressed in any other way. Before a student of the English language can expect to fully understand the language, he must first learn the fundamentals of verbals.

The information on this page was first presented in the Grammar Review pages of Additional information is presented on this page to further help you to understand the basics of verbals. Learn them well.

To begin, choose from the select menu above a verbal you wish to review.

verbal basics

Verbals begin their lives as verbs. They function as verbs, either showing action or state of being. It soon becomes clear that they are useful in other ways, that they can function as nouns or as adjectives or even as adverbs.

This versitility is extremely useful. For instance, we can make this statement:

John is running.

Clearly John is doing something. "Running" is being used to show action. "Running" is a verb.

But what if we wanted to say that John enjoys this activity. We could say this:

John is running. He enjoys this activity.

We could. But it is easier and more natural to say this:

John enjoys running.

We have used the word "running" to name the activity. We have used a verb that shows action as a noun to name that action. We have used a verbal.

Since verbals come from verbs, and since verbs can have objects and modifiers, verbals can also have objects and modifiers. The single word that was once a verb is the verbal. The verbal, including all its objects and modifiers, is called a verbal phrase.


Gerunds are present participle verb forms that are always used as nouns. Instead of showing action or state of being, gerunds name action or state of being.

Gerunds can function in every way that a noun can funtion.

Not every noun that ends in "-ing" is a gerund. Some nouns, such as king or ring, just naturally end in "-ing." Only present participle forms of verbs which are used to name things qualify as gerunds.


Participles are verbals that are always used as adjectives. They modify nouns. Participles come in two flavors:

The rocking boat made me dizzy.
Rocking gently in the swells, the boat made me dizzy.
The boat, rocking gently in the swells, made me dizzy.
The broken vase lay in fragments on the floor.
Broken by the playful kittens, the vase lay in fragments on the floor.
The vase, broken by the playful kittens, lay in fragments on the floor.

As you can see, a participle can modify a noun by coming before or after the noun. This allows for variety in our sentences.


Infinitives are the most versatile verbal. They can be used as nouns (in any way a noun functions), as an adjective, or as an adverb.

Infinitives usually give themselves away because they include what is called "the sign of the infinitive," the word "to."

As a noun (predicate noun): His goal was to graduate a semester early.

"To graduate" renames the subject "goal."

As an adjective: The movie to see this summer is Shrek II.

"To see" tells "which" movie.

As an adverb: The soup was too hot to eat.

"To eat" tells "to what extent or degree" about "hot." (The soup wasn't too hot to pour into a bowl. It was just too hot to eat.)

Infinitives are the only verbal that can have a subject.

We all wanted Gerald to win the election.

"Gerald" is the subject of the infinitive "to win," which is the direct object of the sentence. When an infinitive has a subject, it is sometimes referred to as an "infinitive clause."

When the subject of an infinitive is a personal pronoun, it will be in the objective case, even though this seems wrong for subjects.

We all wanted him to win the election.

As you can see, using the nominative case "he" will not sound correct; it is not correct.