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. While verbal nouns may retain some characteristics of the verb they are derived from, such as being able to take direct objects and being modified by adverbs, they generally function as nouns rather than verbs. Verbal nouns can take plural forms, as well as determiners and adjectives, just like other nouns.

How To Form Verbal Nouns: Adding a Suffix

There are various suffixes that can be used to form verbal nouns in English. Look at the examples:

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

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

Adding -ing

A gerund is a noun that is derived from a verb and retains some verb-like properties. Gerunds are formed by adding the suffix -ing to a verb. They can be modified by adverbs and can take direct objects, just like a verb. However, unlike regular nouns, gerunds can also take an object complement, which is a noun or adjective that renames or describes the direct object.


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

write (verb) + -ing (suffix) = writing (gerund)


Not all verbal nouns are gerunds, but all gerunds are verbal nouns.

Common Functions of Gerunds

Gerunds can serve many functions in English. They 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 world is dancing.

What I like most about swimming is feeling refreshed afterwards.

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

I'm really looking forward to hiking in the mountains this weekend.

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 noun or a pronoun precedes a gerund, it must be in the possessive form.

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


The infinitive form of a verb is created by adding "to" before the base form of the verb, and it can function as a noun. As a result, in many sentences, either a gerund or an infinitive can be used without any significant 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.

Or "Telling 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.

If an infinitive follows 'to be verbs' it cannot be the object; rather, it is a 'complement'.

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?

Since the gerund and the infinitive serve the same function, in some cases either of them can be used in a sentence without any change in meaning. However, this is not always the case, as some verbs can only be followed by a gerund (e.g., "enjoy," "admit," "avoid"), while other verbs can only be followed by an infinitive (e.g., "decide," "promise," "agree"). Additionally, some verbs can be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive, but the meaning of the sentence changes depending on which one is used.

She's agreed to sing VS. She enjoys singing

I stopped smoking VS. I stopped to smoke

While the first sentence means 'I quit smoking', the second one means 'I took a break to smoke'


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.


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