Let’s school some verbs! The Grammar and Style course‘s lectures for week three covered main types of verbs and their subtypes and aspects. Some verb types are pretty confusing to decipher because they are so similar, including the gerund and present participle, and phrasal verbs and verbal phrases. It would be great to go through what these types are, along with some info on the secretive passive voice.

Present participles and gerunds are verbs ending in -ing. However, a gerund always functions as a noun. (I thought all words ending in -ing were gerunds, so it’s nice to know the difference.) For example, “swimming” in “Swimming can be good” is a gerund, and “riding” in “I am riding north” is a present participle. As you can see, a present participle contains a helping verb; in the example, the helping verb is “am.”

The terms “phrasal verbs” and “verbal phrases” are so similar I thought it important to distinguish the difference. Phrasal verbs consist of a main (finite) verb and a preposition or adverb integral to the meaning of the verb. Phrasal verbs include “climb up,” “turn on,” “add up,” “back up,” back down,” “call in,” among others. A verbal phrase is trickier to distinguish because it contains a non-finite verb and the words modifying it. So you’ll need to know what non-finite verbs are (present and past participles, gerund, and infinitive). Here’s an example of a verbal phrase: “When examined carefully, the substance did not seem harmful.” “Examined” is the past participle, and “carefully” is the adverb modifying the verb.

Whew, that was tricky. Now onto the passive voice, which is when a subject is acted upon in a sentence. Teachers taught me to avoid the passive voice when writing, which in general is correct, as it’s better to stick to the active voice. Yet, there is a type of passive voice, called the impersonal passive, that is acceptable when used intentionally in certain circumstances, particularly in business/work settings. Examples include, “It was decided…,” and “It was agreed…,” which soften the tone of the message.

(Image from DTTSP)

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