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Verbal noun

  • October 3, 2015
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When is a verb not a verb? When it is a verbal noun.

A verbal noun is the infinitive form of a verb, that acts like a noun. It is usually created by adding “-ing,” after that it loses all the qualities of a verb and can now be used as a subject, direct or indirect object and so forth. It can be pluralized, modified by adjectives and it can precede prepositional phrases. Many are quite frequently used, such as “building” or “shavings.”

“After the haircut, clippings were all over the floor.”

“I like chocolate frosting on my cupcakes.”

“Bob stared at the painting for several minutes.”

“The cake was decorated with seven different types of icing.”

“The vase was filled with cuttings from Granny’s rose garden.”


The verbal noun is similar to and can be confused with the “gerund.” As a matter of fact, certain arguments exist on the interwebz saying that they are the same thing. The majority of opinions are that they are different, and this seems to be the most popular way to tell:

Can an article ( “a,” “an” or “the”) or a determiner (“some,” “this,” “three”) be placed in front of the word? Can the word be pluralized?

If the answer is “yes” to either question, the word is probably a verbal noun and not a gerund.

Reading is not my cup of tea, I prefer listening.

Now it’s your turn to practice: use some verbal nouns and gerunds in your next talk.

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