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Verbal nouns - Easy Learning Grammar

The verbal noun is the -ing form, i.e. the present participle of the verb, used as a noun. It can be used in all the places that a noun can be used, but still keeps some characteristics of the verb. It is sometimes called the gerund.
  • The screaming of the brakes terrified me.
  • Smoking is prohibited.
The verbal noun normally functions as an uncountable noun, as above. However, there are some uses of the verbal noun that can be preceded by an indefinite article or used in the plural.
  • He gave a reading from his latest volume of poetry.
  • The takings were down this week in the shop.
The verbal noun can be preceded by the definite article, by adjectives, and by possessives.
  • Her marvellous singing won Helen the scholarship.
Just like any noun, the verbal noun can function:
  • as a subject.
  • Driving was impossible.
  • as the complement of the verb be.
  • Seeing is believing.
  • His greatest pleasure is working.
  • Louisa likes swimming but Helen prefers diving.
  • after prepositions to make a prepositional phrase.
  • Can you watch them without laughing?
Verbal nouns are also used:
  • after some phrasal verbs such as: be for/against, give up, keep on, look forward to, put off.
  • She was all for leaving immediately.
  • Linda gave up swimming but she kept on dieting.
  • They were looking forward to writing home.
  • after certain set expressions such as: can’t stand, can’t help, it’s no use/good.
  • I can’t stand waiting around.
  • I can’t help getting cross.
  • It’s no use crying over spilt milk.
The possessive determiner can be used with the verbal noun, especially in formal English.
  • Anna left the house without my knowing.
  • The verbal noun also has:
  • a perfect form: having …ed.
  • Martin was accused of having cheated.
  • a passive form: being …ed.
  • Being asked did not bother me.
  • a perfect passive form: having been …ed.
  • The car showed no sign of having been touched.

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