A Verb by Any Other Name: Infinitives, Participles, and Gerunds

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13783

Verbs are known as the action in a sentence, but verbs can serve other functions in a sentence as well. When this happens, they become distinct parts of speech. Learn more in this lesson!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Read this sentence.

Dancing is my favorite physical activity.

  • What is the verb?
  • Is there more than one?

hmm confused

Read on to find out!

Verbs tell you the action in a sentence.

  • But what if a word that typically functions as a verb is used as another part of speech in a sentence?

That's what is happening in the example above. Look at the sentence once more.

Dancing is my favorite physical activity.

The verb in this sentence is is.

  • So what is dancing?

Dancing is functioning as a noun in this sentence.

Sometimes, verbs can function as other parts of speech. When they do, they're called verbals.

You'll learn about three types of verbals in this lesson: infinitives, participles, and gerunds (pronounced jair-unds).


The infinitive is the base form of a verb, with no tense or number.

The word to always comes before the verb in an infinitive, and they can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

It can be easy to confuse an infinitive phrase with a prepositional phrase since to is a preposition. In a prepositional phrase, to will come before a noun or pronoun.

Take a look at these examples.

You must tread water for 60 seconds to pass the swimming test.

To pass is an infinitive because pass is a verb.

If you want the best burger in town, go to Mama's Diner.

To Mama's Diner is a prepositional phrase because Mama's Diner is a noun.

Give it it try.

Look at the sentence below and decide if the italicized phrase is an infinitive or a participle.

Image - Video


Gerunds are verbs functioning as nouns, and they take the -ing form of the verb.

Like with the dancing example above, -ing verbs can function as nouns in different ways in a sentence.

Take a look at a couple more examples.

I really enjoy singing.

The word singing is being used as a noun, naming the activity the speaker enjoys.

Where did you get your shoes, if you don't mind my asking?

This is tricky, but you can tell asking is a noun in this case because it has a possessive pronoun. Verbs can't be possessed.

Your turn.

Look at the sentence below, and determine if the -ing verb is a verb or a gerund.

Image - Video


When a verb is used as an adjective, it is a participle.

Past participles use the -ed form of the verb. Present participles use the -ing verb form, just as gerunds do.

Take a look at how these are used.

She poured the noodles into the boiling water.

The peeled potatoes are ready to chop.

There are also some irregular past participles. Here are a few.

  arisen rung
  caught drawn
  beaten seen
  forbidden written


These have to be memorized.

studying guinea pig

You're up again.

Look at the sentence below and determine if there is a participle or not.

Image - Video

Think Fast!

Complete the sentence below.

Image - Video

If you're ready to see how well you understand these terms, click through to the Got It? section.

Image - Button Next