3 Nov 2014

Verb phrases and verbals

Obviously, every sentence in English has to have a verb or a verb phrase, sometimes in grammar called: a verb, a compound verb and a verb string.

A one-word verb in a sentence:
She went to the park.

A compound verb:
She went to the park and watched birds.

A verb phrase (a verb string) in English may comprise as many as four words:

  • must have been reading, 
  • should have been asked 
  • will have been built

Importantly, any word we may find between verbs in a verb string is an adverb, not a verb.

She must not have been reading.
She has often gone to the park.
Peter would also like to go to the park.
I will never let you go.

All words in blue are adverbs, modifying verbs.

After talking about phrases, we know that there are words in a sentence which look like verbs, but in a sentence they do not play verb roles. They are called verbals and may function in many different ways in a sentence.

Gerund (doing) is a noun; a gerund phrase will always act as a noun in a sentence.
Participle (doing, done) is an adjective, but a participle phrase may act as an adjective or an adverb.
Infinitive (to do, to have done) is a verbal and  an infinitive phrase may play a role of a: noun, adjective or adverb.