Verbals: Gerunds, Infinitives, Participles, I

How to Get Over GIP Confusion: Gerunds, Infinitives & Participles

by Owen Fourie

Part One

You use GIPs all the time. No, I’m not thinking of Giant Inflatable Penguins. It’s the other kind of black-on-white species—Gerunds, Infinitives, and Participles.

In grammar-talk, these labels are bandied about to make it easier for you to hate grammar.

Even if you don’t love grammar and these terms confuse you, you are always using verbals as you write and speak. Let’s find an easy way to understand them.

What is a verbal?

  1. A verbal is a word that has the form of a verb, but it functions as another part of speech and not as the verb in a sentence.
  2. Although they are most often called verbals, there is another term that is used—verbids. I prefer this word because it gets away from the other meanings associated with verbal.
  3. The three kinds of verbals or verbids are gerunds, infinitives, and participles. They’re easy to remember if you use an acronym like GIP, or would you prefer PIG?

What is a gerund?

  1. A gerund has the form of a verb, but it functions as a noun and not as the verb in a sentence.
  2. It is identified by its -ing ending.
  3. It occurs as a single word or within a gerund phrase. A gerund phrase includes the gerund itself as well as any modifiers, pronouns, and noun phrases.
  4. Serving as a noun, the gerund or gerund phrase will do what a noun does in a sentence. It can be subject, direct object, subject complement, or object of a preposition.

Here are some examples with the gerund or gerund phrase italicized:

  1. Sleeping nourishes your brain cells. (gerund as subject)
  2. Exploring the mystery of sleep might be the subject of my next essay. (gerund phrase as subject)
  3. Our language arts teacher does not appreciate my sleeping, but it’s her voice that makes me drowsy. (gerund as direct object)
  4. Regardless of this, she approved my writing an essay about sleep. (gerund phrase as direct object)
  5. My favorite pastime is sleeping. (gerund as subject complement)
  6. My unforgivable habit in class is sleeping soundly during lectures. (gerund phrase as subject complement)
  7. Our language arts teacher reprimanded me for sleeping. (gerund as object of a preposition)
  8. She commended me for writing an essay to explore the mystery of sleep. (gerund phrase as object of a preposition)

What is an infinitive?

  1. An infinitive has the base form of a verb. It can function as a noun, as an adverb, or as an adjective, but not as the verb in a sentence.
  2. It is identified by the particle to that comes before the base form of the verb. When this particle is missing, you are left with a bare infinitive. In “I can go tomorrow,” go is a bare infinitive.
  3. It occurs as a bare infinitive, as the combination of the particle to followed by the base form of the verb, or as part of an infinitive phrase. An infinitive phrase includes the infinitive as well as any modifiers, pronouns, noun phrases, and prepositional phrases.
  4. Serving as a noun, the infinitive or infinitive phrase will do what a noun does in a sentence. It can be subject, direct object, or subject complement.

Here are some examples with the infinitive phrase italicized:

  1. To wait until tomorrow might be too late (subject)
  2. I intend to leave before sunrise. (direct object)
  3. My aim is to return before noon. (subject complement)
  4. I must take the Lamborghini to achieve this objective. (adverb)
  5. My plan to leave early is the key to the success of this operation. (adjective)

What is a participle?

  1. A participle has the form of a verb. It functions as an adjective. As an adjective, it modifies a noun or a pronoun. A participle is also used with an auxiliary (helping) verb to show tense, voice, and aspect.
  2. It is identified by its -ing (present participle) ending or its -ed (past participle) ending. Past participles of irregular verbs have endings such as -en, -t, -n, or -ne (broken, built, sown, shone).
  3. It occurs as a single word or within a participial phrase. A participial phrase includes the participle itself as well as any modifiers.
  4. It is necessary to place the participial phrase as close as possible to the noun it modifies to avoid any confusion.

Here are some examples with the participle or participial phrase italicized:

  1. Researching the mystery of sleep, Justin was amazed at the facts he found. (participial phrase modifying the proper noun, Justin)
  2. He learned how scientists could read the thoughts of a dreaming rat! (present participle modifying the noun, rat)
  3. Whistling excitedly, he continued his research. (participial phrase modifying the pronoun, he)
  4. Smiling, he wrote down many points for his essay. (present participle modifying the pronoun, he)
  5. Justin, stimulated by many thoughts, found it difficult to stop writing. (participial phrase modifying Justin)
  6. One of the major points for his essay concerned enhanced memory. (past participle modifying the noun, memory)
  7. The teacher has been talking about Justin’s essay. (present participle used with helping verbs, has been)
  8. Justin’s teacher has graded his essay. (past participle used with helping verb, has)

More about PIGs

In the second part of this article, you will learn more about these verbids by

  • distinguishing between gerunds and participles;
  • distinguishing between infinitives and prepositional phrases;
  • minding the split infinitive;
  • punctuating correctly, and
  • dangling a modifier. Dang! Should you really do that?

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If there are any points about verbals that still puzzle you, ask here for clarification. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

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