Verbal Nouns in English Grammar

Verbal Nouns in English Grammar

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 noun are!

Verbal Nouns in English Grammar

Verbal Nouns

A verbal noun is a noun that is derived from a verb but has no features and properties like a verb. Except for gerunds which we'll explain later. Verbal nouns have plural forms like a noun. They can also have determiners and adjectives. In English, verbal nouns are in two ways:

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)

Gerunds can be used as the subject or object of the sentence.

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 .

The first noun at the beginning of a sentence is subject, which means 'stealing' is the subject.

Exercising is good for your body .

The same rule is applied here.

  • the object of a verb;

He tried to quit smoking .

Object can come after some main verbs or after prepositions. This, makes smoking an object.

I love dancing to that song .

Dancing is an object, being used after transitive verb 'love'.

  • the complement of a verb;

One of his hobbies is jogging .

What I like most in the word is dancing .

  • the object of a preposition;

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

'About' is a preposition and 'swimming' is its 'object'.

He has tried to give up the habit of smoking .

'Of' is a preposition and 'smoking' is its object.

  • a part of a compound noun;

I put the dirty clothes in the washing machine .

Gerunds can be used to make a compound noun, such as washing machine.

I swim every day in the swimming pool .

The same rule is applied here.


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

Please excuse my asking this question .

(NOT Please excuse me asking this question.)

Gerund with Tenses

Gerunds which are also called the present participle of verbs in English language, have a crucial rule in making the continuous (or progressive) tenses. For example, present continuous tense or past continuous tense.

She is trying to do her best .

Is + trying : present continuous


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 subject of a verb;

To save lives is important .

The same as '' saving lives is important.''

To tell a lie is a sin .

The same as '' telling a lie is a sin.''

  • the object of a verb;

I want to drink .

'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 same rule is applied here.

  • the complement of a verb;

His dream was to become a renowned poet .

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 same rule is applied here.

  • the object of a preposition;

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

'About' is a preposition that makes the following infinitive 'to do' the 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:

Remember to turn off the lights . = Remember 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 said' is the perfect participle.

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

'having been warned' is the perfect participle (passive).

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