Parts of Speech
Verbals

Verbals

Verbals are gerunds, participles, and infinitives.

Gerunds

A gerund is an ing form of a verb that is used as a noun.

Shopping at the hardware store is her husband's favorite pastime.

Shopping is derived from the verb to shop.
In the above sentence, the gerundial phrase shopping at the hardware store is used as the subject of the verb is, so it functions as a noun.

Use the possessive form of a pronoun or a noun to modify a gerund.

Sally does not approve of his shopping there.

Because the pronoun his modifies the gerund shopping, you must use the possessive form of the pronoun.

 Sally does not approve of him shopping there.

Note: Sally does not disapprove of her husband, but she does disapprove of his shopping.

Participles

A participle is an ing form of a verb that is used as an adjective.

Walking home from school, John saw an accident.

Walking is derived from the verb to walk.
In the above sentence, the participial phrase walking home from school is used as an adjective modifying the noun John.

Dangling participles

A dangling participle is a participial phrase that is not placed near the word that it modifies. Therefore, it is left dangling.

For the sentence to make sense, the participial phrase must be placed next to the word that it modifies.

 Walking home from school, the sidewalk was quite slippery.

When you ask "Who was walking home from school?" you get the answer "the sidewalk" from this sentence. Yet you know that the sidewalk was not walking home from school.

In this sentence there is neither word for the participial phrase to modify. Therefore, to correct the sentence, you have to add a noun or a pronoun for the participial phrase to modify.

 Walking home from school, Tommy found the sidewalk to be quite slippery.

Now that the participial phrase modifies Tommy, we no longer have a dangling participle. Tommy is placed immediately after the participial phrase, so the sentence now makes sense.

(For more information on this topic, see Dangling Participles.)

Infinitives

An infinitive is a form of a verb that can be used as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

Infinitive used as a noun
To win was his primary goal.

The infinitive to win is used as the subject of the verb was. Therefore, it is used as a noun.

He wanted to win the race.

The infinitive to win is used as the object of the verb wanted. Therefore, it is used as a noun.

Infinitive used as an adjective
John was the only student to pass the test.

The infinitive to pass modifies the noun student so it is used as an adjective.

Infinitive used as an adverb
John used his knowledge to pass the test.

The infinitive to pass is used to modify the verb used, so it is used as an adverb.

Note: Grammar books list verbals with verbs as a part of speech. However, because their function is different, we listed them on a separate page, as we did with articles.

Practice

Instructions: Choose the correct answer for each of the two practice sentences below by clicking on the correct answer.

  1. The student blamed his parents for (his, him) choosing a difficult topic for his speech.
  2. His parents did not approve of (Jim, Jim's) watching so much television.

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