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12.8: Other Verb-Like Words and Their Functions

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    Verbs, as you know, carry tense and indicate time and mood. However, some forms of verb-like words don't carry tense and perform other functions in a sentence, such as acting as a subject or object, or acting as a descriptor. To understand this, you need to understand the basic, tense-less form of a verb, called an "infinitive." This term comes from the word "infinity," which implies outside of time.


    An infinitive is a form of a verb that comes after the word to and acts as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

    to + verb = infinitive

    Examples of infinitives include to move, to sleep, to look, to throw, to read, and to sneeze.

    Often main verbs are followed by infinitives. Study the following table for examples. The infinitive follows the main verb because the main verb itself is what carries the tense.

    Table 12.8.1 -- Infinitives and Verbs

    to help Jessica offered to help her move.
    to arrive Mick expects to arrive early.
    to win Sunita wants to win the writing contest.
    to close He forgot to close the curtains.
    to eat She likes to eat late.


    Never use a verb-like word with a suffix ("ing" or "ed") with "to" before it. This is mixing forms.


    A gerund is a form of a verb that is used as a noun. All gerunds end in -ing. Since gerunds function as nouns, they occupy places in a sentence that a noun would, such as the subject, direct object, and object of a preposition.

    You can use a gerund in the following ways:

    1. Traveling is Cynthia’s favorite pastime.
    2. I enjoy jogging.
    3. The librarian scolded me for laughing.

    Often verbs are followed by gerunds. Study the following table for examples.

    Table 12.8.2 -- Gerunds and Verbs

    Gerund Verb Followed by a Gerund
    moving Denise considered moving to Paris.
    cleaning I hate cleaning the bathroom.
    winning Nate imagines winning an Oscar one day.
    worrying Mom says she has stopped worrying.
    taking She admitted taking the pumpkin.

    You may wonder which verbs can be followed by gerunds and which verbs can be followed by infinitives. With the following verbs, you can use either a gerund or an infinitive.

    Table 12.8.3 -- Verbs that Take Infinitives or Gerunds

    Base Form of Verb Sentences with Verbs Followed by Gerunds and Infinitives
    begin 1. John began crying.
    2. John began to cry.
    hate 1. Marie hated talking on the phone.
    2. Marie hated to talk on the phone.
    forget 1. Wendell forgot paying the bills.
    2. Wendell forgot to pay the bills.
    like 1. I liked leaving messages.
    2. I liked to leave messages.
    continue 1. He continued listening to the news.
    2. He continued to listen to the news.
    start 1. I will start recycling immediately.
    2. I will start to recycle immediately.
    try 1. Mikhail will try climbing the tree.
    2. Mikhail will try to climb the tree.
    prefer 1. I prefer baking.
    2. I prefer to bake.
    love 1. Josh loves diving.
    2. Josh loves to dive.

    Exercise 1

    On your own sheet of paper, complete the following sentences by choosing the correct infinitive or gerund.

    1. I meant ________ (to kiss, kissing) my kids before they left for school.
    2. The children hoped (to go, going) to a restaurant for dinner.
    3. Do you intend ________ (to eat, eating) the entire pie?
    4. Crystal postponed ________ (to get dressed, getting dressed) for the party.
    5. When we finish ________ (to play, playing) this game, we will go home.

    Past Participles

    Past participles do many things, one of which can be to begin a descriptive, modifying phrase called a verbal phrase.

    A past participle, as you may remember from earlier in this chapter, is a verb with an "ed" on the end, but in this case the word act as a descriptor (adjective or adverb) rather than a main verb that carries tense. Here are some examples:

    Scared to sleep through her alarm, Megan asked her mom to wake her at 6 a.m.

    To see how "scared" does not carry tense in this case, we can break up this sentence into two main ideas:

    • She was scared to sleep through her alarm. (Scared is an adjective complement to the main verb, was. It just describes how she felt. Therefore, "scared" does not carry tense here.
    • Megan asked her mom to wake her at 6 a.m. (The main verb is "asked," which carries the past tense.)


    When using a verbal phrase as a modifier, only a past participle or gerund is used. No additional verb is included in the modifying phrase.

    Exercise 2

    On a separate piece of paper, combine and rewrite the following sentence sets by changing one of the sentences in each set to a verbal (modifying) phrase and adding that on to the main clause. You may need to change a main verb into a verbal ending in --ed or --ing to do so.

    1. She felt antsy. She went for a run.

    2. He knew that he did well on the final. Kendrick relaxed about his grade.

    3. They felt frustrated that the weather wasn't cooperating with their plans. They decided to go to the movies instead.

    4. Donia was excited to open her presents. She couldn't wait for her birthday to arrive.

    5. Andrew finally was able to buy the car he wanted. He made the tires screech as he pulled out from the auto dealer.

    Contributors and Attributions


    Adapted from College ESL Writers: Applied Grammar and Composing Strategies for Success. Authored by: Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace. Provided by: GALILEO Open Learning Materials. License: CC BY-NC-SA (3.0): Attribution.

    This page titled 12.8: Other Verb-Like Words and Their Functions is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .