There are a number of highly useful words in English that are difficult to classify as parts of speech. These are infinitives, participles, and gerunds. They are called verbals because all of them are formed from verbs. Like verbs they may all be modified by adverbs.
However, each of the verbals has other characteristics. The infinitive may be used as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The gerund is used as a noun. The participle is used as an adjective.
Usually, but not always, the infinitive is preceded by to, which is called the “sign of the infinitive.” The kinds of infinitives are as follows:
Active Present: to watch Passive Present: to be watched
Active Perfect: to have watched Passive Perfect: to have been watched
The infinitive may appear without its “sign,” the word to:
He did not dare trust him. (modifies dare)
One of the passengers saw the boy fall. (O.C. modifying boy)
Mother heard you come in.
The infinitive may be used as a noun. It may be subject or object of the verb, or it may be a predicate noun, or an appositive.
To conquer was their only objective. (subject of was)
The boss always wants to quarrel. (object of wants)
Dan’s chief objective is to win votes. (predicate noun)
Her orders, to wax the floor, were carried out. (appositive*)
The infinitive may also be used as a modifier. Used as an adjective, it may modify nouns and pronouns.
Mr. Jacoby is the banker to ask.
Harry is the one to challenge.
As an adverb, the infinitive may modify adverbs, adjectives, or verbs.
The fire was dreadful to watch. (modifies the adjective dreadful)
Ted’s touchdown was too late to help us. (modifies the adverb late)
They came to paint the posters. (modifies verb came)
The Infinitive Phrase. The infinitive itself may have modifiers. It may also have a subject, an object, or a predicate word. The infinitive phrase consists of the infinitive together with its modifiers, its subject, object, or predicate word.
The infinitive may be modified by adverbs, phrases, or clauses. These modifiers are part of the infinitive phrase.
To work well requires concentration. (well modifies To work)
To play a good game by Saturday, we must practice now. (The phrase by Saturday modifies To play.)
The supervisor said to stop when I got the cards addressed. (The clause when I got the cards addressed modifies to stop.)
The infinitive may have a direct object, an indirect object, or a predicate word. These words, completing the meaning of the infinitive, are part of the infinitive phrase.
To sign the application, use this pencil. (application is direct object of To sign.)
Marie wanted to give Josie a gift. (Josie is indirect object and gift is direct object of to give.)
Joe wants to be a machinist. (machinist is predicate noun after to be.)
The teller always tries to be courteous. (courteous is predicate adjective after to be.)
The infinitive may have a subject. This subject always follows the main verb and comes directly before the infinitive. Since it follows the main verb and is in the objective case, it is sometimes mistaken for an object of the main verb. The subject of the infinitive is part of the infinitive phrase. In the following examples, the entire phrase is direct object of the verb.
Willie asked Harry to play basketball.
The librarian told me to return the book.
The President wanted the nation to prepare.
Note: If the main verb is a linking verb (a form of be, appear, seem, etc.), the noun following it is a predicate noun. If a predicate noun is followed by an infinitive, the infinitive modifies the noun.
Spaghetti is the dish to serve . He is the man to ask.
The gerund always ends in -ing. It is used in the sentence as a noun and in almost every way that a noun can be used.
Typing can be tiresome. (subject of verb)
I enjoy weaving. (object of verb)
By signing, I became member. (object of preposition)
The Gerund Phrase. The gerund may be modified by adjectives or adverbs. It may be completed by objects or predicate words. The gerund phrase consists of the gerund together with its modifiers, objects, or predicate words.
The gerund may be modified by single adjectives and adverbs or by phrases and by clauses.
Good timing is necessary in skiing. (Good is an adjective modifying timing.)
Keith enjoys bicycling hard. (hard is an adverb modifying bicycling)
Skiing down a mountainside is exhilarating. (down a mountainside is a phrase modifying Skiing)
Dancing when you are tired is not fun. (when you are tired is a clause modifying Dancing)
Gerunds may be completed by objects or predicate words. These words are part of the gerund phrase.
Being provider for a family is my responsibility. (provider is a predicate noun completing Being.)
Giving Donna a silver chest is not a good idea. (Donna is indirect object and silver chest is direct object of Giving.)
There are several forms of the participle, all widely used.
Present Participle: painting
Past Participle: painted
Perfect Participle: having painted
Passive Perfect Participle: having been painted
The present participle always ends in –ing. The past participle is the third principal part of the verb, and its endings are various. The participle is always used as an adjective to modify a noun or a pronoun. In the examples below, the arrow indicates the word modified by the participle.
Running, she managed to reach the station on time.
Frightened, the watchman could not explain the accident.
Having been warned, Jerry avoided the dark street.
The Participial Phrase. The participle may be modified by single adverbs or by phrases and clauses. The participle may also be completed by objects or predicate words. The participial phrase consists of the participle together with its modifiers, objects, or predicate words.
The participle may be modified by adverbs, by phrases, or by clauses. These modifiers are part of the participial phrase.
Arriving early, the critic sat in the wings. (early is an adverb modifying Arriving.)
Participating in the tournaments, Earl became a skilled chess player. (in the tournaments is a phrase modifying Participating.)
Working while others rested, Smith developed a new type of plastic. (while others rested is a clause modifying Working.)
The participle may be completed by objects or predicate words. These words are part of the participial phrase. In the examples below, the arrow indicates the word modified by the participial phrase.
Having solved the puzzle, Mrs. Haggarty demanded the prize. (puzzle is direct object of Having solved.)
Alice walked from the principal’s office, looking relieved. (relieved is a predicate adjective completing looking.)
Passing Tony the ball, Jack danced back. (Tony is indirect object and ball is direct object of Passing.)
[Last edited Apr 21, 2012 16:59:34]
Fernando S. Talavera, Jr.
English Teacher (ESL/EFL)