Some time ago, I talked about gerunds and reviewed the basics of how to identify one. Today, I’d like to go into a bit more detail, including how to tell the difference between a gerund and a present participle, which can be tricky, even on a good day. Continue reading
So what exactly is verb conjugation? Well, it’s what happens when we change a verb’s form to match the properties of voice, mood, tense, person, and number (which you may remember learning about in my earlier post on verbs). Right, so what does that mean?
First, let’s do a quick review of those five properties. Voice tells us who is performing the action and/or who is receiving it (active vs. passive). Mood tells us if something is being expressed as a fact (indicative), a command (imperative), or something hypothetical (subjunctive). Tense tells us whether the action occurred in the present, past, or future. Person tells us who is acting. Number tells us whether the verb is singular or plural.
When we conjugate a verb, all of these properties may be reflected in the results. And most verbs, except auxiliary verbs, will take one of the following five forms: 1) Infinitive, 2) Simple Present, 3) Simple Past, 4) Present Participle, 5) Past Participle.
Okay, so let’s look at some examples using the verbs terrify, curdle, and shrink.
|Simple Present||terrify (terrifies)||curdle (curdles)||shrinks|
She terrifies small children.
Voice: active (she is performing the action)
Mood: indicative (it is a fact that she does this)
Tense: present (simple)
Person: third person singular (indicated by the “s” at the end of the verb)
Number: singular (because person in singular)
We are curdling blood.
Voice: active (we are performing the action)
Mood: indicative (it is a fact that we are doing this)
Tense: present (continuous, because it’s happening right now)
Person: third person plural (indicated by the pronoun “we” and the auxiliary “are”)
Number: plural (because person in plural)
You will shrink 13 heads today!
Voice: active (you will perform the action)
Mood: imperative (it is a command)
Tense: future (simple)
Person: second person (indicated by the pronoun “you”)
Number: singular (because person in singular)
If only they had been terrifying the villagers last night.
Voice: active (they should have been performing the action)
Mood: subjunctive (this is expressing a hypothetical desire)
Tense: past (perfect continuous, because it would have been a continued action)
Person: third person plural (indicated by the pronoun “they”)
Number: plural (because person is plural)
And there you have it. Conjugating verbs in a nutshell.
If you would like to learn more, check out the following resources:
- Forming and Using Verb Tenses
- Types of Verbs and Verb Tenses
- Rules for Conjugating Verbs
- Verb Forms and Tenses
Happy (Inter)National Grammar Day, my dear readers!
In honour of this very special day, I thought I would talk about a piece of grammar that we likely all recognize – at least by its name. Every time I say dangling participles my husband chuckles in the background. Most of us have heard of dangling participles, and the inhumanity of doing that to a participle, but how many of us actually know what a participle is and how to prevent it from dangling?
Well, fear not! I’m here to help you become an expert.
So let’s start at the beginning, by looking at participles.
Remember when we talked about gerunds (verbs that act as nouns)? Well, a participle is a verb that acts as an adjective. That means it is used to modify a noun. Here are some examples (participles are in italics):
- Rippling muscles. Tousled hair. Stolen glance.
Participles come in two forms: present participles end in –ing and past participles typically end in –ed or –en.
A present participle indicates that the verb’s action is in progress.
- Scarlett gasped in awe as she gazed upon his throbbing member.
A past participle indicates that the verb’s action is complete.
- In the throes of ecstasy Arabella no longer cared about her tarnished maidenhead.
Okay, so now you know how to identify a participle. How do you know when it’s dangling? Contrary to the image suggested by the term, dangling participles are not participles left hanging at the end of a sentence. They are participles that are not directly related to the noun closest to them, which often creates confusing, ambiguous and illogical sentences. For example:
- Frequently overlooked in college, Francisco made Eva feel like a sensual princess.
In the above example, Eva was the one overlooked but the placement of the participle suggests that Francisco was overlooked. If we rewrite the sentence, we can make the meaning clear:
- Eva, frequently overlooked in college, felt like a sensual princess with Francisco.
In English, participles go with the noun closest to them in the sentence. If they are misplaced – or if you don’t include the noun they ought to be modifying – they will end up modifying a different noun, making your sentence downright weird, kind of like this:
- Heaving in the candlelight, Damian gazed upon Lavinia’s bosom.
Not too sexy when you picture Damian heaving instead of Lavinia’s bosom, is it? A simple rewrite will make the sentence more palatable:
- Damian gazed upon Lavinia’s bosom heaving in the candlelight.
So please don’t leave your participles dangling. They want to belong, just like the rest of us. They need to be close to their noun in order to fulfill their purpose. Don’t be the jerk that stands in the way of their happiness, especially not on (Inter)National Grammar Day.
What the hell is a gerund? Well, I am so glad you asked!
In the simplest terms, a gerund is a verb that is used as a noun. More specifically, a gerund is a present participle (a verb that ends in –ing) that, under the right circumstances, becomes a noun instead of a verb.
So what are the right circumstances? When is a verb not a verb? Well, there are a number of ways in which gerunds are used, and here they are, along with some examples (I have bolded the gerund in each example):
1) As the subject of a verb.
Walking the plank can be really scary when you’re in shark-infested waters.
2) As the object of a verb.
The pirates planned on plundering from dusk to dawn.
3) As a predicate nominative or complement.
Another exhilarating pirate activity is swashbuckling.
4) As the object of a preposition.
At the end of the day pirates like to unwind by drinking.
5) As a substitute for an infinitive.
Pillaging is an art. (Instead of: To pillage is an art.)
And that, me hearties, is how you identify — and use — gerunds. Time to weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! Or curl up on the beach with a nice bottle of plundered rum.
Until grammar brings us together again.