"Verbal Nouns" in English Grammar

Verbal Nouns

Sometimes we can change a verb and make it into a noun. One of the most common ways of doing this is adding the suffix -ing. Let's see what verbal nouns are!

"Verbal Nouns" in English Grammar

What Are Verbal Nouns?

A verbal noun is a noun that is derived from a verb, but does not have features and properties of a verb. Except for gerunds which we will explain later. Verbal nouns have plural forms like a noun. They can also have determiners and adjectives. In English, verbal nouns are formed as follows:

How To Form Verbal Nouns: Adding a Suffix

In English, we can form verbal nouns with several different suffixes. Look at the examples:

refuse (verb) + -al (suffix) = refusal (verbal noun)

A verbal noun can have a meaning related to its verb section, but it is not exactly the same.

agree (verb) + -ment (suffix) = agreement (verbal noun)

How To Form Verbal Nouns: Adding -ing

A gerund is a noun that is derived from a verb and have a few verb-like properties. Gerunds are made by adding the suffix -ing to the verbs. They can be modified by an adverb and can take a direct object. In modern English, gerunds are the present participles of verbs and they help us make tenses like present continuous, past continuous ,etc.

play (verb) + -ing (suffix) = playing (gerund)

build (verb) + -ing (suffix) = building (gerund)


All verbal nouns are not gerunds, but all gerunds are verbal nouns.

Gerunds: Functions

A gerund can have many functions in the English language. It can be used as:

The subject of a verb:

Stealing is a crime.

Here, 'stealing' is the subject and as mentioned before, it is a gerund.

Exercising is good for your body.

The object of a verb:

He tried to quit smoking.

Objects can come after transitive verbs or after prepositions.

I love dancing to that song.

The complement of a verb:

One of his hobbies is jogging.

What I like most in the word is dancing.

What I like most about swimming is feeling refreshed after it.

Here, 'about' is a preposition and 'swimming' is its 'object.'

He has tried to give up the habit of smoking.

A part of a compound noun:

I put the dirty clothes in the washing machine.

I swim every day in the swimming pool.

Using Present Participle as the Subject


When a gerund is preceded by a noun or a pronouns, it must be in the possessive form.

Please excuse my asking this question. (Not "Please excuse me asking this question.")

Gerund with Tenses

Gerunds (also called the present participle) have a crucial rule in making continuous (or progressive) tenses, for example, present continuous tense or past continuous tense.

She is trying to do her best.


The infinitive form of a verb is formed with 'to' before the base form of a verb. It can function as a noun. Thus in many sentences, either a gerund or an infinitive may be used without any special difference in meaning. The infinitives can be:

The subject of a verb:

To save lives is important.

This sentence is the same as, '' saving lives is important.''

To tell a lie is a sin.

The object of a verb:

I want to drink.

As you might know, 'Want' is a transitive verb which requires an object , in this case to drink is the object of the verb.

I would like to order a pizza.

The complement of a verb:

His dream was to become a renowned poet.

It is important to know that If there is an infinitive after 'to be verbs' it cannot be the object; it is called the complements.

Our job is to translate this text.

The object of a preposition:

What I'm about to do here is very dangerous.

Here in this example, 'about' is a preposition followed by an infinitive (object).

Gerund or Infinitive?

Because both the gerund and the infinitive have the same function, therefore in many cases, either one of them can be used in a sentence without any differences in meaning. For example:

Do not forget to turn off the lights. = Do not forget turning off the lights.

To tell the truth is very important. = Telling the truth is very important.

Participle Combination

Sometimes to show a specific tense in English, we can combine a present participle with a past participle to create the perfect participle.

Having said that, I enjoy doing it, it's a challenge.

Having been warned of the accident ahead, she stopped the car.


Here there are the tables that make it easy to understand and remember this lesson.

Common ways of making verbal nouns
Adding -al refuse (verb) + -al (suffix) = refusal (verbal noun)
Adding -ment agree (verb) + -ment (suffix) = agreement (verbal noun)
Adding -ing play (verb) + -ing (suffix) = playing (gerund)
The usage of gerunds
The subject of a verb Stealing is a crime.
The object of a verb He tried to quit smoking.
The complement of a verb One of his hobbies is jogging.
The object of a preposition He has tried to give up the habit of smoking.
A part of a compound noun I swim every day in the swimming pool.

Gerund with Tenses

Here is the table to help you learn the structure;

Present continuous Subject + to be (present)+gerund
Past continuous Subject + to be (past) + gerund


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Gerunds are words derived from verbs that act as nouns. All gerunds include a verb and -ing. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

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