Verbals Verbals are verb forms that are being used as other parts of speech. They are not expressing the actions of the subject.
Participles A participle is a verb form ending in -ing, -d, or -ed that can be used as an adjective. Some participles may have irregular forms. Examples: Esperanza sees the singing canary near the window. (The verb form singing is not functioning as a verb in this sentence. It is an adjective for the noun canary) The baked chicken with yellow rice tasted delicious. (Baked is a verb form acting as an adjective for the noun chicken) Confused and frightened, they fled into the jungle. (Confused and frightened are functioning as adjectives for the pronoun they) Most of the treasure buried by the pirates has never been found.
Participial Phrases A participial phrase consists of a participle and all the modifiers that go with it, so the phrase as a whole is modifying something. Examples: Chosen for her leadership abilities, Dawn was an effective team captain. Seeing itself in the mirror, the duck seemed quite bewildered. After a while, we heard the duck quacking noisily at its own image. Having been a gymnast, Lynn knew the importance of exercise.
Don’t let your participles dangle Participial phrases should be placed as close as possible to the word it modifies, otherwise the phrase may appear to modify another word and the sentence may not make sense . . . or it may sound pretty darn amusing. A misplaced modifier is one that is not close enough to what it modifies. A dangling participle is one that cannot logically modify anything in the sentence as it is written. Slithering through the grass, I saw a snake trimming the hedges this morning. (Misplaced modifier) Turning the corner, a coffee shop appeared. (Dangling participle) Walking down main street, the trees were beautiful. (Dangling participle) Bright and full of flowers, Jenny ran through the meadow. (Misplaced modifier)
Practice Identify the participles in the following sentences. • Records, cracked and warped, were in the old trunk. • Shouting loudly, Carmen warned the pedestrian to look out for the car. • Spoken in haste, the angry words could not be taken back. • The papers, aged and yellowed, were in the bottom drawer. • For centuries the ruins remained there, waiting for discovery. • Carefully decorated, the piñata glittered in the sunlight. • The charging bull thundered across the field of red and orange poppies. • Cheering and clapping, the spectators greeted their team. • The children, fidgeting noisily, waiting eagerly for recess. • Recently released, the movie is not yet in local theaters.
Gerunds A gerund is a verb form ending in –ing that is used as a noun. Because they are used as nouns, they can be used in all the same ways a noun can be used: subject, PN, DO, IO, OP. Subject: Skiing down that slope was fun. PN: Dad’s favorite pasttime is fishing for trout and bass. DO: We enjoyed hiking in the mountains. IO: Give sailing a try. OP: Please sweep the front sidewalk after mowing.
Gerund Phrases A gerund phrase contains the gerund and any modifiers of the gerund. In a gerund phrase, the gerund and all the modifiers are, together, functioning as a noun. Examples: Having a part-time job may interfere with your schoolwork. (It’s not just the gerund “having” that is the subject. ALL of it is the subject.) The townspeople heard the loud clanging of the fire bell. (Include the adjectives for the gerund and the prep. phrase that follows, because all of it is functioning as the direct object.) We crossed the stream by stepping carefully from stone to stone. (All of it is functioning as the object of the preposition.)
Gerund Phrases Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the words you’ve identified as a gerund phrase are all the ones you need. Because gerund phrases are functioning as nouns, we should be able to use a pronoun in their place. If your sentence sounds OK with the pronoun in place of the gerund phrase, then you have identified the right group of words. The pronouns THIS or THAT are probably the easiest ones to use. Example: I do not understand the point of organizing my book collection. (I do not understand the point of THIS.)
Infinitives An infinitive is a verb form that can be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb. Usually, infinitives appear with the word “to” To install the ceiling fan took two hours. (Subject) (The infinitive is part of a phrase “to install the ceiling fan,” which functions as the subject. “Ceiling Fan” is the object of the infinitive.) Winona’s ambition is to become a doctor. (PN) (The infinitive is part of a phrase “to become a doctor,” which functions as the PN. “Doctor” is the object of the infinitive) The best time to visit Florida is December through April. (Adj) The infinitive is part of a phrase “to visit Florida,” modifying the noun “time.” “Florida” is the object of the infinitive.) The gymnasts were ready to practice their routines. (Adv) (The infinitive is modifying the adjective “ready.” “Routines” is the object of the infinitive.) In most cases, if the infinitive is not functioning as a noun, then it will be right by what it modifies, making it easier to tell if it’s an adjective or adverb
Practice • To succeed in math is a special goal of mine. • For some, the attempt to understand his writing is a challenge. • Most people like to see his plays performed. • To prevent the audience from becoming bored, Shakespeare included comic scenes. • Many famous actors have wanted to play the part of Hamlet. • His goal was to be both a playwright and an actor.
Using infinitives makes you sound wise beyond your years To believe in one's dreams is to spend all of one's life asleep. To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without root To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art. To persecute the unfortunate is like throwing stones on one fallen into a well. To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish. A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home. To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.
Appositives An appositive is a noun or a pronoun that is placed next to another noun or pronoun and is used to identify or describe it. Appositives usually follow what they’re identifying or describing. Sometimes they are set off by commas as well. My cat Lucky was found in the middle of Highway 17. (Lucky is the appositive. Consider appositives extra information; I don’t have to tell you my cat’s name, but it helps make everything more specific.) My sister, Lana, has blond hair. An appositive phrase contains the appositive and any modifiers that go along with it. Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian painter known for his artworks, was also an architect.
Punctuation with appositives We use commas to set apart an appositive phrase that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. An appositive is not set apart by commas if it is essential to the meaning. Essential: Shelley asked everyone where her friend Bianca had gone. (No commas needed because Shelley has more than one friend, so we need the name of the friend.) Nonessential: Tacos, one of the most popular Mexican dishes, are served here. (The appositive phrase is set apart from the rest of the sentence because that information isn’t necessary for the rest of the sentence to make sense.)