Verbal Phrases: Talk Soup

A verbal is a verb form used as another part of speech. Like Gaul, verbals come in three varieties: participles, gerunds, and infinitives. Each type has a different function in a sentence:

Although a verbal doesn't function as a verb in a sentence, it does retain two qualities of a verb:

You Could Look It Up

A verbal is a verb form used as another part of speech.

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

A gerund is a verb form used as a noun.

Let's get to know the three verbals a little better.

Part and Participle

A participle is a form of a verb that functions as an adjective. There are two kinds of participles: present participles and past participles.

In the mood to add some participle action to your sentences? Here's how you do it:

Don't confuse participles and verbs. Participles aren't preceded by a helping verb, as these examples show:

Participle phrases contain a participle modified by an adverb or an adverbial phrase. The whole kit and caboodle acts as an adjective, as these examples show:

The participle phrase “Annoyed by its heavy breathing” describes the pronoun “I.” However, the participle phrase can also be placed after the word it describes. In that case, it is usually set off by commas, as in this example:

Like appositives, participles and participle phrases are an indispensable part of the writer's bag of tricks because they allow you to create concise and interesting sentences. Use them to combine information from two or more sentences into one sentence. Notice how much more punch the following sentence has when it is combined by using a participle:

Two sentences: Noel Coward made a slight but pointed adjustment to an old cliché. He once described another writer as every other inch a gentleman.

One sentence: Making a slight but pointed adjustment to the old cliché, Noel Coward once described another writer as every other inch a gentleman.

Gerund Phrases

A gerund is a form of a verb used as a noun. Remember the following two guidelines when you hunt for gerunds:

Gerunds can function as subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, objects of a preposition, predicate nominatives, and appositives. Here are some examples of gerunds:

Like a participle, a gerund can be part of a phrase. In that case, the whole package is called a gerund phrase. (Got you with that one, didn't I?) Here are some gerund phrases busy at work in their sentences:

Danger, Will Robinson

Don't confuse gerunds and present participles, because both end in -ing. A gerund functions only as a noun, while a participle functions only as an modifier.

Infinitive Phrases: The Final Frontier

Last but not least we have the infinitive, a form of the verb that comes after the word to and acts as a noun, adjective, or adverb. Versatile little babies, infinitives can fill as many roles as gerunds, with the addition of adjectives and adverbs. Here are some examples:

You Could Look It Up

The infinitive is a verb form that comes after the word to and functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

Danger, Will Robinson

Don't confuse infinitives with prepositional phrases that begin with to. Remember that a prepositional phrase always ends with a noun or a pronoun; an infinitive always ends with a verb.

An infinitive can be used as a phrase. An infinitive phrase, as with the other verbal phrases, contains modifiers that together act as a single part of speech. Following are some examples:

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at and Barnes & Noble.


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