KISS Level 2.1.6 - Distinguishing
Finite Verbs from Verbals
What Are Verbals?
Even many teachers who have been “taught” grammar
are not familiar with the term “verbal.” A verbal is a verb that functions
as noun, adjective, or adverb. In other words, verbals can function in
any way that a noun, adjective, or adverb can. In KISS Level Four — Verbals,
students will learn that there are three, and only three, types of verbals
(gerunds, gerundives, and infinitives). They will also learn that like
any other verb, verbals can have subjects, complements and be modified
by adverbs. Notes in the analysis keys explain the subjects and complements
of verbals, but remember that these explanations are for teachers and parents.
this KISS Level (2.1.6) students simply need to learn how to distinguish
finite verbs (the verbs they should underline twice) from verbals.
They can learn how to do this by using the three tests explained in the
1. They went to the zoo to see the monkeys.
In (1), “went” is a finite verb because it makes a sentence — “They
went to the zoo.” “See,” however, is not. First, it’s got a “to” directly
before it. But most importantly, the “to see” cannot be used to form an
acceptable sentence — They to see the monkeys??? Zoo to see the monkeys???
Nonsense. Thus “to see” is a verbal. It functions as an adverb to explain
why “They went.”
2. He likes everything from hunting to fishing.
3. Anthony’s driving is dangerous.
Situations like that in (2) should be easy
for students because, if they are using the KISS approach, “hunting” and
“fishing” should already be tucked out of the way in the parentheses that
mark prepositional phrases. Both “hunting” and “fishing” function as nouns,
the objects of prepositions. In (3), “driving” is a verb, but it is not
finite because the sentence does not mean “Anthony is driving”; it means
that his driving — whenever he drives — is dangerous. Simply put,
“driving” functions as a noun, the subject of the sentence. (Here again,
meaning is crucial to the KISS approach.)
4. Hearing his mother call, Paul always went to her.
Sentence (4) includes two verbals. “Hearing”
is a verb, but it is not finite. If we ask “Who or what is hearing his
mother call?” the answer is “Paul,” but “Paul hearing his mother call”
is, as students know, not an acceptable sentence. Students should be expected
to use their knowledge of basic sentence structure. Their knowledge of
it is just as good as any grammarian’s. And it will help them to find —
and then to ignore — the other verbal in (4). Thus, “call” is a verb, but
“His mother call.” (unlike “His mother calls.”) is not an acceptable sentence.
Thus “call” is not a finite verb. “His mother call” functions as a noun,
the direct object of “Hearing.”
5. Sent to the store by his mother, he went to the park instead.
As always in the KISS approach, students must
pay attention to meaning. In (5), students could make an acceptable
sentence with “sent”: “He sent to the store.” But that is not what “sent”
means in this sentence. It means “he *was* sent.” Verbs cannot be added
to a phrase to make it finite. Such verbs are verbals. In this case, “Sent”
functions as a verbal adjective that modifies “he.”If you are not familiar
with verbals, you might want to look at KISS
Level Four -- Verbals.
There is one case that is not covered by the
three tests. Consider, for example, the sentence:
6. They made Sam and Sally go to school every day.
Since students will rightly see "Sam and Sally go to school every day"
as an acceptable sentence, they will probably identify "go" as a finite
verb. To see that it is not, we need to apply an additional test (which
we might call the "Substitution Test"). If they were to substitute a pronoun
for "Sam and Sally," every student would substitute "them" — "They made
them go to school every day." And "Them go to school every day" fails the
sentence test. You can, of course, add this test to the instructional material
yourself. As of now, however, my sense is that such cases are relatively
rare. Thus, rather than add instructional material for relatively rare
cases, it is probably better to focus students' attention on the majority
of cases, and to expect students to make mistakes with such rare cases.
Once they have mastered the basic distinction, you can point out this additional
Teaching Verbals at KISS Level Two
Finite verbs are not easy to define. Perhaps
that is why even many experienced English teachers do not know what they
are. (Ask some.) This does not, by the way, suggest that teachers are stupid.
The problem is that the professors who teach the teachers, and the people
who write the textbooks, are more interested in teaching the names of constructions.
They do not even attempt to help K-12 teachers learn how to analyze the
sentences that students read and write. Thus, instead of using the term
"verbals," the professors (and the textbooks) focus on the three types
of verbals — "gerunds," "participles" (KISS "gerundives"), and "infinitives."
This "Divide and Confuse" strategy keeps power and money in the hands of
the professors and textbook publishers, but it does not help the teachers
The instructional materials for this objective
begin with the three tests that students can use to make the distinction
— the Noun Test, the "To" Test, and the Sentence Test. The first exercise
is on the Noun Test, the second on the "To" test, and the third
on the Sentence test. The material on the Noun Test includes a brief general
explanation of verbals. The "Sentence Test" usually covers the examples
in the "Noun" and "To" tests, but the "Noun" and "To" tests are easier
to remember and to apply. This separation into three types of exercises
should help teachers help students master one test at a time.
Students are then given "A Summary Sheet of
the Three Tests." Exercises four (a ? b) are on "Mixed" verbals.
Exercise five is a "Passage for Analysis," and six is "Just
for Fun." Students who have a good sense of what is, and what is not a
good sentence, should be able to master this distinction with these seven
exercises. If they need more practice, remember that you can find additional
exercises in the on-line Master Master Collection of Exercises on the KISS
Two Notes of Caution:
First, before you begin using these exercises,
you should be sure that the students are fairly comfortable with identifying
the finite verbs in the "basic" exercises, exercises in which there are
few, if any, verbals. Students who cannot do so will probably find exercises
on verbals extremely confusing and frustrating.
Second, since, in context, every verb is either
finite or a verbal, the instructional material on the "tests" explains
much of KISS Level Four. It is, however, one thing to explain gerunds,
gerundives and infinitives, and something quite different to expect the
students to remember all these terms and details. Unfortunately, it is
very easy to get caught up in teaching the three kinds of verbals. I simply
want to emphasize, therefore, that the objective here is to enable students
to identify the finite verbs, not the three types of verbals. The study
of clauses (KISS Level Three) is much more important than the details of
verbals. Once students are at least well into the mastery of clauses,
you can start the advanced work on verbals.
|Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline every finite verb twice, its subject(s) once, and label
any complements (“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
3. Make a rectangle around each verbal.
|Probable Time Required
How much time you want to devote to focusing
on the distinction between finite verbs and verbals depends on several
variables, including the amount of time you can spend on grammar, whether
or not you are working within a coordinated curriculum design, and your
personal objectives. Because infinitives (“to” plus a verb) frequently
function as complements, the KISS grade-level books suggest introducing
it in Grade Three. The basic distinction between finite verbs and verbals
is then introduced in Grade Four. When you first introduce the distinction,
if you have the time, you should probably do at least two exercises on
the noun test, two on the “to” test, and two on the sentence test. (Review
the first, in-class, before the students do the second.) The distinction,
however, cannot simply be taught and then forgotten, as is so often the
case in most grammar books.
in KISS Level 2.1.6
a Verb as a Complement
of Robin Hood Told to the Children by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
|As Adjectives or Adverbs
|As Adjectives or Adverbs Ex
|As Direct Objects Ex
|As Direct Objects Ex
|As Direct Objects Ex
|As Direct Objects Ex
|As Direct Objects (without "to")
|As Predicate Nouns Ex
5 - A Passage for Analysis
Alternate Set of Exercises
the Writing of Fourth Graders