Verbals, Part 1: The Gerund
Verbals: An Intimate View
The VERBAL is NOT a little furry animal.
It is like a multi-tasking worker who can do more than one thing at a time. Just as personal refers to a person, medical refers to medicine, legal refers to law, sexual refers to sex, and referral refers to a reference to anything to which the ending -al is attached, so also does verbal refer to the verb.
Quick review of the functions of nouns and verbs:
The verb is the word in the sentence that shows action or state of being. Ants carry rocks. Carry is the word that shows the action of what ants do.
Ants is a noun and the subject of the action word carry. It shows who or what is doing the action.
Rocks is a noun that shows the object or the receiver of the action that the ants are doing.
A verbal is a form of a verb that functions like another part of speech. The three basic forms are the gerund, the participles and the infinitive. They are defined, explained, and demonstrated in the following sections.
Section 1: The Gerund [The -ING thing]
The form of a verb that ends in -ing and acts like a noun is called a GERUND.
It is easily recognized by its spelling: it is a verb form that ends with -ing.
But that is not the only requirement. It MUST be used as a noun. This presumes that you know that a noun is that term which names a person, place, thing, or idea. Gerunds are not persons, places or things; but they ARE ideas taken from verbs. The words in the first column are words that can be verbs if they show the action in a sentence. Note the following sentences that use the words in the first column above as verbs. The second sentence shows that same verb with an -ing being used as a noun and how it is used as a noun in that sentence.
1a. Hunters carry guns to protect themselves from swarms of mosquitos.
Carry is the action word that shows what the hunters are doing with the guns.
It is the main verb of the sentence.
1b. For mosquitos, carrying guns is superfluous; they have their own weaponry.
Carrying is a verbal (the -ing form of the verb) used as a noun.
The verbal, Carrying, is the subject of the sentence. That is the noun part of the verbal.
The verb part of the verbal takes an object (direct object) as any transitive verb can. That object, or receiver, is guns. So, the whole subject of the sentence is the verbal carrying and its object guns.
2a. I run faster than I walk.
Run is the main verb of the sentence.
2b. Sometimes running has gotten me no farther than if I had walked.
[The verbal running (the -ing form of the verb)is used as the subject of the verb has gotten.]
3a. You jump a man in checkers to capture him.
Jump is the main verb of the independent clause.
3b. Jumping a man in public can be considered assault and battery.
Jumping is the verbal form of the verb functioning as the subject of the verb can be considered.
4a. You do what you do when you can because if you do not, you won’t.
The verbs do are the main verbs in each of their respective clauses.
4b. You can do more by doing what you say rather than saying that you will do what you haven’t done.
The verbal doing is the verbal acting as a noun functioning as the object of the preposition by.
5a. When children flatulate inadvertently, some parents are humorously infatuated.
Flatulate is the verb of the introductory adverbial dependent clause.
5b. Society may discourage flatulating in crowded theaters.
Flatulating is the direct object (a noun, in this case) of the main verb may discourage]
6a. Dump your trash at the dump where legal dumping is permitted.
Dump is the main verb of the independent clause functioning as an imperative.
6b. Dump your trash at the dump where legal dumping is permitted.
Dumping is the subject of the verb is permitted in the adverbial dependent clause.
7a. Signify your assent by raising two fingers of your left hand.
Signify is the imperative verb of the sentence.
7b. The elevation of two fingers of the left hand, signifying assent, is appropriate for now.
Signifying is a verbal noun functioning as an appositive to rename the subject of the sentence,elevation.
8a. I love you.
Love is the verb of the sentence.
8b. We enjoy loving each other.
Loving is a verbal noun functioning as the direct object of the main verb of the sentence, enjoy.
9a. Teachers postulate their hypotheses based on empirical evidence.
Postulate is the verb of the sentence.
9b. Postulating is forming opinions based on factual support.
Postulating is the subject of the verb is.
10a. I sleep days because I work nights.
Sleep is the verb of the independent clause.
10b. There is no harm in sleeping a full eight hours per day.
Sleeping is a verbal noun functioning as the bject of the preposition in.
Further Review: A Gerund is an -ing form of a verb that acts like a noun. Therefore, whatever a noun can do a GERUND can do. It can be a subject of a sentence, direct object, appositive, indirect object, object of a preposition and more.
1. Carry is a verb as in the sentence Ants carry rocks.
The -ing form of the verb is carrying.
To use carrying as a noun, notice the following:
a. Carrying rocks is no easy task for ants.
The subject of the sentence is carrying. It is functioning as a noun.
b. Ants develop leg strength by carrying rocks.
In this sentence carrying is the object of the preposition by. It is functioning as a noun.
c. Ants must hate carrying rocks.
Here the word carrying functions as the direct object of the verb hate. It is still a noun.
Notice the word following carrying in each case remain the same.
Just as in the original sentence (Ants carry rocks.), the direct object of the verb carry does not change. It is still rocks. The reason is that the gerund retains its verbal quality. As a noun it functions the way nouns do; as a verb, it still does what verbs do: take objects and modifiers.
2. Run is a verb in the sentence Some athletes run a great marathon.
The -ing form of the verb is running.
To use running as a noun, notice the following:
a. Running a great marathon is no easy task for some athletes.
The subject of the sentence is running. It is functioning as a noun.
b. Some athletes gain fame by running a great marathon.
In this sentence, running is the object of the preposition by. It is functioning as a noun.
c. Some athletes love running a great marathon.
Here the word running is the direct object of the sentence. It is still a noun.
Just as in the original sentence (Some athletes run a great marathon.), marathon is still the direct object of the verbal running. Running is part verb and part noun just as in the first example carrying is part verb and part noun.
The schizoid nature of the verbal is made clearer when you can see that, as one word that presents itself conveniently as a noun and a verb, a sort of dual personality, it can be modified by words that describe nouns as well as those that describe verbs at the same time. Using the same examples above, observe the following:
My willingly carrying rocks is not to be soon anticipated.
a. Carrying is still a gerund or verbal noun. It is still the subject of the sentence.
b. As a noun, it takes the adjective modifier my.
c. As a verb, it takes the adverb modifier willingly.
Here is another variation on the same theme.
Careless carrying rocks across marshy meadows can be a sticky situation for inattentive ants.
a. Again, carrying is still the subject of the sentence.
b. As a noun it is modified by the adjective careless.
c. Or it could be changed to be modified by an adverb, carelessly.
d. As a verb, it can be modified by two adverbial prepositional phrases, across marshy meadows and for inattentive ants.
Practice: Look at the following sentences. Identify the gerund and state how it functions as a noun. [Use your own paper. Don’t write on the monitor.]
1. I walk three hundred centimeters a day because my doctor told me walking is necessary to maintain good health and high arches.
2. My talk to them falls on deaf ears. As I talk to them, they are still talking. The talking never stops.
3. Do not gawk at the squawkers; they do not like gawking. To them, it is uncivilized.
4. Take me to your leader. He likes taking names of both friends and enemies.
5. There is no chance of a sweep in the World Series since no team can sweep if one team has avoided being swept by winning a game. Sweeping signifies a lack of ability.
6. Dance the dance and prance the prance if you like dancing and prancing.
7. Eat your heart out, pizza lovers. Eating pizza is my specialty.
8. May you suffer no longer than the pain endures; suffering is, indeed, painful enough.
9. Hens laying eggs are on strike because their laying eggs has gotten some of them laid off.
10. A zoom lens on a camera allows the photographer to zoom in on a subject that does not appreciate the finer aspects of zooming in on a subject like himself.
HINT! Most gerunds can be substituted for by the word IT. However, the substitution is intended only for the gerund itself and NOT any of the modifiers or objects of their verbal function. Apply this principle to the above examples.
1. Carrying rocks is no easy task for ants.
a. Carrying is the gerund
b. rocks is the object of the gerund
Substitution: IT is no easy task for ants.
2. Ants develop leg strength by carrying rocks.
a. carrying is the gerund
b. rocks is still the object of carrying
Substitution: Ants develop leg strength by IT.
3. Ants must hate carrying rocks.
a. carrying is the gerund
b. rocks is still the object of carrying
Substitution: Ants must hate IT.
In the example II (above) with running as the verbal, observe the following substitutions.
1. IT is no easy task for some athletes.
2. Some athletes gain fame by IT.
3. Some athletes love IT.
The GERUND is a verb form used as a noun and only a noun. But it retains its ability to take modifiers of both its noun personality and its verb personality. It is recognizable by two characteristics which are inseparable:
1. It must have an -ing
2. It must function like a noun in some way.