What Are Verbals? (with Examples)

Marcus Froland

Verbals are fascinating elements of the English language, as they are verb forms that take on new roles in a sentence. These versatile words shed their typical verb duties and instead become nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. With a clear definition of verbals, you can easily identify and use them in various contexts, enhancing your communication skills and making your writing more dynamic. In this article, we’ll explore several verbal examples and learn the main types of verbals and their distinct functions.

Discovering Verbals: More Than Just Verbs

Verbals are intriguing linguistic elements that bear a striking resemblance to verbs, while exhibiting distinct grammatical functions. In fact, they perform the roles of other parts of speech—including subjects, direct objects, and subject complements, among others—rendering them an essential aspect of English grammar. This incredible versatility allows us to create more sophisticated and nuanced sentences, ensuring that our message is both engaging and clear.

There are three main types of verbals: gerunds, participles, and infinitives. Each of these affords unique capabilities, transforming from their typical verb format to assume the role of nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. This transformation grants extraordinary flexibility in shaping sentences to reflect a wide range of meanings and intents:

  1. Gerunds resemble verbs with their “-ing” endings, but they function as nouns within a sentence.
  2. Participles take on either past or present tense verb forms and act as adjectives, modifying nouns or pronouns.
  3. Infinitives typically start with “to” and maintain the base form of the verb, allowing them to function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Understanding verbals and their diverse functions is crucial to mastering English grammar. By incorporating verbals effectively, you can enhance the clarity and fluency of your writing.

Verbals look very much like verbs but differ in grammatical function. They act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs and can play various roles in sentences.

When you learn more about verbals, you will find that they are not only interesting but also useful for language learning. By recognizing gerunds, participles, and infinitives—and harnessing their power—you can elevate your understanding of the English language and build more complex, compelling sentences and narratives.

Type of Verbal Format Function
Gerunds -ing verb form Nouns
Participles Past or present verb forms Adjectives
Infinitives “To” + base verb form Nouns, adjectives, or adverbs

Verbals are much more than mere verbs. By understanding their distinctive characteristics and applying them appropriately within your writing, you can harness the rich potential of verbals in English grammar, thereby enhancing your communication skills and captivating your audience.

Exploring Gerunds: The Verbal-Noun Hybrid

Gerunds are unique verbal forms that function as nouns in sentences, enabling a more versatile and dynamic sentence structure. While they appear similar to present participles—both taking on an “-ing” form—their functionality sets them apart, revealing a diverse range of syntactic positions they can occupy.

The Versatility of Gerunds in Sentences

Gerunds’ ability to operate as subjects, direct objects, retained objects, and subject complements allows them to add depth and variety to sentence constructions. This verbal-noun hybrid provides a compact way of expressing actions or activities as nouns, leading to smoother and more elegant writing.

Recognizing Gerunds in Different Contexts

Identification of gerunds revolves around spotting the “-ing” forms of verbs used as noun entities. These gerunds can be found in various settings, such as within gerund phrases or occupying the subject position. By harnessing objects and other modifiers within gerund phrases, gerunds can convey complete thoughts effectively.

Using gerunds as subjects helps to emphasize the action or activity taking place and can create engaging sentence structures.

Gerunds in Action: Real-Life Examples

Gerunds in everyday language are abundant, with examples such as:

  • Laughing is the best medicine.
  • She enjoys discovering new places.
  • We all need some resting time.

In these instances, activities like laughing, discovering, and resting take on the role of noun entities, demonstrating the diverse nature of gerunds in sentence construction. Gerunds also play a pivotal role in developing gerund phrases, which contain the gerund alongside its modifiers and objects, emphasizing the importance of gerunds within daily communication and writing.

Gerund Phrase Components of the Phrase
Reading a good book Gerund: Reading
Direct Object: a good book
Traveling with friends Gerund: Traveling
Prepositional Phrase: with friends
Playing in the rain Gerund: Playing
Prepositional Phrase: in the rain

Understanding and utilizing gerunds effectively ultimately allows for more sophisticated and appealing sentence constructions, enriching both written and spoken communication.

Participles: Adjectives in Disguise

Participles are verbal forms that play a fascinating role in sentence construction, often masquerading as adjectives. These verbals function adjectivally, modifying nouns with either present or past tense forms, such as “baking” or “baked” in relation to bread.

Various verbs give rise to different participle forms, offering a plethora of descriptive potential. This flexibility enables participles to head up participle phrases, which add another layer of depth and complexity to sentences. The prevalence of participle usage is especially noticeable in literature and assorted written contexts.

Wandering through the forest, the hiker spotted a hidden waterfall.

In the example above, the present participle “wandering” enriches the sentence by providing additional contextual information related to the hiker’s activity. This is a prime example of using participle phrases to evoke vivid imagery within a sentence, thereby enhancing its overall impact. Mastering participle usage can take your writing skills to new heights, as evidenced by the works of renowned authors such as Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Understanding the distinction between past and present participles is paramount when employing these verbals effectively in written communication. To illustrate this further, let’s examine the differences between past and present participles:

Base Verb Present Participle Past Participle
burn burning burnt
swim swimming swum
write writing written

As illustrated in the table above, different verbs yield diverse forms of present and past participles. By choosing the appropriate participle based on context, you can convey meaningful and nuanced details to your audience. It’s essential to comprehend past and present participles to unleash the full extent of their descriptive power when crafting compelling text.

  1. Ensure you correctly employ past and present participles in your writing.
  2. Capitalize on the descriptive potential of participle phrases to enrich your sentences.
  3. Explore the work of literary greats to observe participle usage in action.

Participle usage is a crucial skill and a powerful tool for writers looking to elevate their text to the next level. By mastering past and present participles, you can unlock new opportunities to enhance the fluency and sophistication of your writing. Embrace the world of participles and watch your prose transform into a dynamic and engaging experience for your readers.

Diving into Infinitives and Their Functions

Infinitives are versatile verbal forms that can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs within sentences. They often begin with the word “to” followed by the verb’s base form, such as “to dance” or “to sing.” Infinitives play an important role in English grammar, emphasizing purpose or intent and adding meaning to sentences.

Infinitives as Nouns, Adjectives, and Adverbs

As nouns, infinitives can act as the subject of a sentence or become the object of a verb or preposition. For example:

  • To err is human; to forgive, divine.
  • She loves to travel.
  • They agreed to complete the project by Friday.

As adjectives, infinitives modify nouns, providing extra information about the noun’s purpose or intended action. For instance:

  • She has the necessary skills to succeed.
  • The magazine had articles to inspire.

When functioning as adverbs, infinitives add nuance and clarity to verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs in the sentence:

  • They left early to catch the train.
  • I am excited to participate in the competition.

How to Spot an Infinitive Phrase

Infinitive phrases consist of the infinitive and its associated objects and modifiers. These phrases typically begin with the word “to” and can be identified by their structure, including additional elements to complement the base action or concept indicated by the infinitive. For example:

  • To plant a beautiful garden (infinitive phrase), she needs various flowers and proper tools (modifiers and objects).
  • To make a delicious meal (infinitive phrase), he combined fresh ingredients and followed the recipe closely (modifiers and objects).

The Role of Infinitives in Enhancing Clarity

Infinitives can streamline sentences by replacing more wordy constructs, such as “in order to,” thereby reducing word count without diluting meaning. They improve readability and increase textual clarity, guiding readers through the intended message and action more directly and efficiently. For example, consider the following sentences:

She needs to study hard in order to pass the exam.

This sentence can be simplified using an infinitive:

She needs to study hard to pass the exam.

Infinitives help keep sentences clear, concise, and focused on delivering the intended message without unnecessary complexity.

Why Verbals Matter: Strengthening Your Grammar Skills

Verbals play an essential role in mastering the English language, allowing you to communicate with precision and diversity. By understanding the importance of verbals, you can sharpen your grammar skills and convey your thoughts more effectively.

Participle phrases, for example, provide an economical means of expressing various attributes about a subject. Gerunds facilitate the creation of smoother sentence flows with fewer words, while accurate use of infinitives can reduce redundancy. As a result, a solid understanding of verbals is instrumental in developing robust grammar skills and drafting compelling narratives or arguments.

In conclusion, honing your command over verbals is crucial for effective communication in both written and spoken English. Applying your knowledge of verbals, such as gerunds, participles, and infinitives, will improve your overall language proficiency, transforming your writing into a versatile and persuasive tool. Embrace the power of verbals to unlock your full potential as a communicator capable of crafting engaging and impactful messages.