English in Use
General ContentsIntroduction
Parts of speech ArticlesNounsVerbsGerunds and participlesPronounsAdjectivesAdverbsPrepositions, Conjunctions and Interjections
Other topics OrthographyPunctuationSyntaxFigures of SyntaxGlossary
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Overview edit

Infinitives edit

See the verbs infinitive mood.

A short syntax edit

An infinitive can be joined to every part of speech: a noun, as "Obtain felicity," an adjective, as "Desirous to speak," a pronoun, as "What to accuse," a finite verb, as "Come to seek," an infinitive, as "To wait to consider," a participle, as "Bent to unhoard," an adverb, as "How to act," a conjunction, as "More than praise it," a preposition, as "About to write," and an interjection, as "O to forget her!".

An infinitive may stand for the following: a supplement to verb, as "Go to seek," purpose, as "Labour not to be rich," an object of passion, as "He loves to ride," a cause of passion, as "I rejoice to hear it," the subject of proposition, as "To steal is sinful," the object of proposition, as "To enjoy is to obey," a coming event, as "Things to come," a necessary event, as "It is to be remembered," something previously suggested, as "The gift to know it," and measure, as "Enough to show."

Gerunds edit

Gerunds are nouns built from a verb with an ing suffix. They can be used as the subject of a sentence, an object, or an object of preposition. They can also be used to complement a subject. Often, gerunds exist side-by-side with nouns that come from the same root but the gerund and the common noun have different shades of meaning. Examples: breath and breathing, knowledge and knowing. Yet, distinguishing between a gerund, and a verb can sometimes cause trouble. For example:

  • "Swimming has to be the best sport ever." (Swimming is gerund.)
  • "I went swimming today." (Not a Gerund, because it is not an idea.)

Examples of gerunds as the subject of a sentence are:

  • "Backpacking is a rewarding pastime."
  • "Stretching can loosen up muscles."
  • "No smoking." (I.e., no smoking is allowed / you may not smoke here.)

As an object:

  • "We all love to go bowling on the weekend."
  • "He loves eating chips."

An object of preposition:

  • "They complained of hearing strange sounds from the next cabin."
  • "They sang about being eaten by bears to allay their fears."

And as a complement to a subject:

  • "One of the most dangerous things to do on the lake is ice-skating."

Participles edit

Participles are forms of verbs which are used as adjectives. A participle is a word derived from a verb, participating the properties of a verb, and of an adjective or a noun; and is generally formed by adding ing, d, or ed, to the verb: thus, from the verb rule, are formed three participles, two simple and one compound; as, ruling, ruled, having ruled.

English verbs, not defective, have severally three participles; which have been very variously denominated, perhaps the most accurately thus: the present, the past, and the past perfect. Or, as their order is undisputed, they may be conveniently called the first, the second, and the third.

The present participle is that which ends commonly in ing, and implies a continuance of the being, action, or passion: as, being, acting, ruling, loving, defending, terminating. Therefore:

  • Talk becomes talking
  • Jump becomes jumping
  • Open becomes opening
  • See becomes seeing

The present participle, when simple, is always formed by adding ing, or it is formed by prefixing being to some other simple participle; as, being reading, being read, being completed.

The past participle is that which ends commonly in ed or en, and implies a completion of the being, action, or passion: as, been, acted, ruled, loved, defended, terminated. Therefore:

  • Talk becomes talked
  • Jump becomes jumped
  • Open becomes opened
  • However, See becomes seen

The past participle is always simple, and is regularly formed by adding d or ed to the radical verb: those verbs from which it is formed otherwise, are either irregular or redundant.

The irregular verb see also did not have a regular past participle. As with most irregular words, there is no good "general rule" which applies, but often ed is replaced by 'en'. More irregular verbs with irregular past participles are:

  • Be, been
  • Break, broken
  • Eat, eaten
  • Slide, slid

The past perfect participle is that which takes the sign having, and implies a previous completion of the being, action, or passion: as, having loved, having seen, having written; having been loved, having been writing, having been written.

The past perfect participle is always compound, and is formed by prefixing having to the past participle, when the compound is double, and having been to the past or the present participle, when the compound is triple: as, having spoken, having been spoken, having been speaking.

A short syntax edit

Participles relate to nouns or pronouns, as "Reading Plato," except the following cases: the preceding phrase, as "To leave them, appearing a duty," an abstract action or being, as "To seem compelled, is disagreeable," substitute for infinitive, as "Afraid of trying," and substitute for a noun, as "This is talking."

Examples edit

  • He is talking to her.
  • They are jumping into the pool.
  • We had eaten the pie.

Each of these cases has a verb acting as an adjective, describing the subject.

In case you were wondering, had plus a past participle is called a past perfect, or in the United Kingdom, the pluperfect.

References edit