Sentence Elements
Verbal Phrases: Infinitive, Participial, Gerund

Verbal Phrases

A verbal phrase consists of a verbal and any objects or modifiers.

A verbal is a verb form that does not serve as a verb in the sentence. Instead, it functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb. There are three types of verbals: infinitive, participial, and gerund. For more information on verbals, see tutorial 1.3E

A modifier is usually an adjective or an adverb that limits, clarifies, of qualifies another element of the sentence. For more information on modifiers, see tutorial 1.4a

As there are three types of verbals, there are three types of verbal phrases:

Infinitive phrases

Infinitive phrases start with an infinitive which is followed by any objects, and/or modifiers.

   To tour Australia slowly is my dream.
     infinitive: to tour
     object:     Australia (the direct object of the infinitive)
     modifier:   slowly (an adverb modifying the infinitive)

     infinitive phrase: to tour Australia slowly

   I must study to pass my winter exams with good marks.
     infinitive: to pass
     object:     my winter exams (the D.O. of the infinitive)
     modifier:   with good marks (a prepositional phrase
                                    modifying the infinitive)

     infinitive phrase: to pass my winter exams with good marks
Participial phrases

Participial phrases consist of either a past or a present participle and any objects, and/or modifiers . Participial phrases always function as adjectives within a sentence.

   That dog keenly hunting the ducks must be a thoroughbred.
     participial: hunting
     object:      the ducks (the D.O. of the participial)
     modifier:    keenly (an adverb modifiying the participial)

     participial phrase: keenly hunting the ducks

   Hidden by the trees, Jerry waited to scare Mark.
     participial: hidden
     modifier:    by the trees (a prepositional phrase
                                  modifying "hidden")

     participial phrase: hidden by the trees (an adjective
                                       modifying "Jerry")
Gerund phrases

Gerund phrases consist of a gerund and any objects and/or modifiers . A gerund phrase can look similar to a participial phrase because the gerund has the same form as the present participle. The main difference is that the gerund (phrase) functions as a noun (ie. subject, object, subject complement, appositive), and the participial phrase as an adjective.


     I enjoy riding my bike in the evening.
          gerund:        riding
          direct object: my bike
          modifiers:     in the evening
Verbal Phrases

By clicking on a bubble, identify the highlighted verbal phrase as infinitive, participial, or gerundive. If your response shows as "Incorrect" in the status bar, you can click on the other answers to find the correct one (which will give you "Correct" in the status bar).

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Copyright © 1998
English Department
University of Calgary

Last updated: August 18, 1998