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Noun-Type Verbals: Gerunds and Infinitives

VerbalsThe word "verbal" might seem out of place in a section all about nouns and pronouns, but, when you consider that verbals are changed from verbs, and not actually verbs, you realize that some verbals can, indeed, behave just like nouns.  

When verbals become nouns, they are "snapshots" of action; more accurately, they're activities and behaviors. Activities that occur in an ongoing fashion, like sport of "swimming" or the recreation of "seeing a movie" at a matinee "showing," can be described and named as things; therefore, they are nouns.  Behaviors that are presented as abstract subjects are still "things" for discussion, but they lie outside of the element of time and duration--for example, "to live" an ethical life, or "to dream" the impossible dream; these sorts of activities are considered timeless, or infinite, which why they're called "infinitives." 

Verbals answers the same questions as the parts of speech they stand in for, so noun verbals answer questions like, "What activity or behavior is it doing, being, sensing or causing?"  

Even though they may not be real verbs anymore, because they resemble verbs, they can assume all the properties of the verbs from which they are derived—whether transitive, intransitive, linking, factitive or causative. Some noun infinitives and gerunds take objects, while others won't, and some will have complements or indirect objects. All of them can be modified in exactly the same way verbs are modified: by adverbs or adverbial expressions. As a result, noun verbals may seem like they're being modified by adverbs rather than adjectives, a trait that every verbal holds onto from when it used to be an actual verb.

This section will explore only noun-type verbals and verbal phrases, which included the following topics:
Single-Word Gerunds
Gerund Phrases
Gerunds and Originating Verb Types
Infinitive Particles
Infinitive Phrases
Infinitives and Originating Verb Types
Last Updated: 02/07/2015


Karl J Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District