College Prep Writing
Certain verb forms may function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. The verb look-alikes are called verbals. Caution: Verbals can easily be confused with verbs, but they do not function as verbs.
Infinitive: to + verb
Contrary to a popular misunderstanding, an infinitive never functions as a verb.
• Infinitive noun
To travel is to learn.
Only the two underlined words in the following quote are verbs.
"To move, to breath, to fly, to float—to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote: To travel is to live." —Hans Christian Anderson
• Infinitive adjective
In the following example, to build modifies skills. To build tells what kind of skills and is an adjective.
He has the skills to build a computer from scratch.
• Infinitive adverb
In the following example, to help modifies the adjective happy.
We were happy to help.
The -ing form of a verb can be a gerund noun or a present participle adjective. Those verbals are underlined in the following examples.
• Gerund noun
Reading is an excellent pastime.
The swelling went down when we put an icepack on it.
• Present participle adjective
Present participles as adjectives are very common. Examples include interesting, troubling, and exciting. In the following examples, the adjective darkening modifies the noun clouds, and embarrassing modifies incident.
Darkening clouds changed our minds about the picnic.
I could not get the embarrassing incident out of my mind.
Most past participles end in -ed; examples are wanted, completed, undelivered, and painted. Other past participles are irregular verb forms, such as stolen, broken, frozen, written, and misunderstood. Burned and stolen are past participle adjectives in the following examples.
• Past participle adjective
Burned chicken is not my idea of a great outdoor barbecue.
The police called with the news that they had recovered my stolen bicycle.