KISS Level 4 - Verbals (Gerunds,
Gerundives, and Infinitives)
A verbal is a verb that functions as
a noun, adjective, or adverb. In KISS Level Two (S/V/C patterns) students
needed to learn how to distinguish finite verbs from non-finite, i.e.,
from verbals. Theoretically, a detailed study of verbals could immediately
follow students’ mastery of S/V/C patterns, but there are two reasons for
postponing such instruction. First, clause structure is much more important
for an understanding of how sentences work. Second, there is a fair amount
of both research and theory that suggests that one verbal (gerundives)
is, to use Kellogg Hunt’s label, a “late-blooming” construction. KISS Level
Four first appears in the sixth "grade-level" book, but this may be too
early for some students.
Like finite verbs, verbals can have complements,
are modified by adverbs, and have implied or stated subjects. Verbals are
probably best learned if the single page of instructional material on them
(“Identifying Verbals”) is simply added to the students’ analytical toolbox.
Thus, students should continue to analyze and discuss sentences and passages
from real texts—identifying prepositional phrases first, then S/V/C patterns,
then clauses, and simply adding the identification of verbals. Such an
approach enables students to see how various writers use verbals in a wide
range of sentences. If there is time for such instruction, teachers can
focus on the sentence-combining and other sentence manipulation exercises.
The exercises on verbals are divided into
four sections, comparable to the presentation of subordinate clauses (KISS
Level 3.1). In that section, mixed subordinate clauses were introduced
first. Thereafter, special focus was put on subordinate clauses as direct
objects, then on adverbial clauses, then adjectival, and then on other
noun clauses. Some students probably did not need most of the materials
in the special focus sections. You may or may not have used the punctuation,
stylistic, and/or logic-focused exercises in those special focus sections.
Similarly, some students may easily master
all three types of verbals by simply using the section on "Mixed Verbals."
If they have problems, you can use the identification exercises in the
three specific sections -- gerunds, gerundives, and infinitives. You should,
however, take the specific sections in that sequence. Gerunds are relatively
easy to identify. With gerunds basically mastered, gerundives are more
easily understood. Finally, infinitives are most easily identified by the
process of elimination—if a verbal is not a gerund and not a gerundive,
it must be an infinitive. Infinitives are the most complex of the
verbals, so you may want to at least browse that section before you decide
to skip it.
|Suggested General Directions for Analytical
1. Put parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline subjects once, finite verbs twice, and label complements
(“PN,” “PA,” “IO,” “DO”).
3. Place brackets around each subordinate clause. If the clause functions
as a noun, label its function ("PN," "IO," "DO," "OP") above the opening
bracket. If it functions as an adjective or adverb, draw an arrow from
the opening bracket to the word that the clause modifies.
4. Put a vertical line at the end of every main clause.
5. Put a box around every gerund and gerundive. If it is a gerund (i.e.,
it functions as a noun) indicate its function over the box. If it is a
gerundive, draw an arrow to the word it modifies.
6. Put an oval around every infinitive and indicate (as in three above)
The three types of verbals can easily be taught simultaneously.
Students who have been learning through the KISS Approach will recognize
gerunds by their functions, i.e., they will see that they have already
been labeling these words as subjects, direct objects, objects of prepositions,
etc. Thus gerundives are best learned through the process of elimination—any
verbs that end in “-ing,” “-ed,” or a few irregular forms (such as “written”)
that are not finite and that do not function as gerunds are almost certainly
gerundives. Any verb that is not finite, not a gerund, and not a gerundive,
to be an infinitive. There are no exceptions to this descriptive rule.
You can, if you wish, slow the introduction
of new material down by having students first do one or two exercises that
focus separately on gerunds, gerundives, and then infinitives. Any randomly
selected text will almost certainly contain a variety of clauses, main
and subordinate. Verbals, however, are used less frequently. To be sure
that there are verbals in the exercise text, you may therefore want to
start with some of the exercises in this section.
The Exercises on "Mixed Verbals"
Section One (four exercises) give students
sentences with a variety of verbals and ask students to identify
the type (gerund, gerundive, or infinitive) of the verbal and any complements.Section
Two (one exercise) focuses on the subjects of verbals. The subjects
of gerunds are in possessive case:
Tom's missing the season hurt the team.
The subjects of gerundives are the word or words that the gerundive modifies:
Susan, having hit a home run, was very happy.
The subjects of infinitives are either understood or in the objective case.
Sarah wanted to wash the car.
everyone understands that Sarah will be doing the washing. In
Sarah wanted him to wash the car.
everyone knows that someone else (in this case, a male) should be doing
the washing. The point here is that the subjects of verbals are not very
hard to understand.
Section Three provides two passages
for analysis. Section Four (one exercise) focuses on style
and asks students to combine sentences using verbals. The Fifth
section is a "Just for Fun" analysis exercise.
- 3 - (a and b) Passages for Analysis
Mixed - 4 - Style - A Sentence-Combining Exercise
Economics" (There is one gerundive in this joke, but there are
several interesting infinitives, including two that function as predicate
nouns, which is statistically relatively rare.)
Gerunds are the simplest verbals to understand.
There are only two problems that I have seen students have with them. The
first is in writing. Some students have trouble with gerunds as subjects.
Thus, instead of writing "Playing baseball taught me a lot," you may get
sentences such as "By playing baseball taught me a lot." KISS helps students
with this problem back in Level 1.5. - Adding Simple Prepositional
Phrases. There students were taught to put prepositional phrases in parentheses,
and if they did that with "By playing baseball," they found that they did
not have a subject for "taught." The second problem is not just analytical
-- it may involve reading skills. Instead of seeing "Playing" as the subject
of our sample sentence, some students may argue that "baseball" is the
subject. Usually, one or two other examples of gerunds as subjects convince
such students. For example, "Watching people is educational." Most students
will agree that the verb here should be "is" and not "are." In addition,
students easily see that "People is educational" is not what the sentence
means. Thus the gerund "Watching" is the subject.
The Exercises on Gerunds
Section One includes two exercises that
focus on identification. Section Two (one exercise) provides
more practice with the subjects of gerunds. Section Three
is an exercise on a construction that frequently raises questions. In a
sentence such as "They went hunting," how does one explain "hunting"? In
KISS, we simply consider it to be a gerund that functions as a Noun
Used as an Adverb. (Gerunds can function in any way that a noun can.)
Four is a "Treasure Hunt."
- 1 (a and b) - Identification
- 2 - The Subjects of Gerunds
- 3 - As Nouns Used as Adverbs
- 4 - A Treasure Hunt
Find five sentences that
include a gerund and make an exercise (with an analysis key).
A Focus on Gerundives
Gerundives are the most important verbal for
students to study. You will not find the term "gerundive" in most, if any,
current grammar textbooks—they use the term "participle." But the problem
with the term "participle" is that it refers to the form, not the function,
of gerundives. In "They were playing in the park," for example, "playing"
is a participle, but it is part of the finite verb phrase. In "Playing
in the park, they had a good time," "Playing" is also a "participle" in
form, and it is so explained in most textbooks. But in this case
"Playing" functions as an adjective to "they." Using one term for two different
functions confuses both students and some teachers.
Gerundives also have an adverbial function,
but KISS focuses on their adjectival function for the simple reason that
misplaced (sometimes called "dangling") modifiers are almost always the
result of students not seeing the adjectival function of gerundives. For
example, a student wrote "Thrown from the car, he saw her lying on the
ground." The student meant that she had been thrown from the car, but most
readers would see "Thrown" as chunking to "he."
The Exercises on Gerundives
Section One (two exercises) simply
helps students identify gerundives and their adjectival function.
Two (one exercise) is a passage for analysis that can be used
for the same purpose. The stylistic possibilities of gerundives raise the
question of whether or not gerundive phrases should be set off by commas.
Some textbooks either say or imply that they should be, especially when
they come at the beginning of a sentence. You will find, however, that
many writers do not follow these rules. Section Three (one exercise)
invites students to explore this punctuation question.
Terri was walking in the park, and she saw a beautiful bird.
This can be rewritten as a subordinate clause:
When she was walking in the park, Terri saw a beautiful bird.
But it can also be rewritten with a gerundive:
Walking in the park, Terri saw a beautiful bird.
Section Four (one exercise) asks students to take sentences written
as main clauses, and (as in the preceding example) rewrite them by
making one clause subordinate and rewrite it again by making that subordinate
clause a gerundive. Section Five (two exercises) provides students
with practice in stylistic flexibility. They skip the clause part, and
simply ask students to rewrite sentences by making a gerundive a finite
verb or by making a finite verb a gerundive.
Sections Four, Five, and Six focus on style.
Stylistically, understanding gerundives is far more important than understanding
either gerunds or infinitives. Gerundives offer more stylistic options.
Consider the sentence:
Section Six is one "Free Sentence-Combining"
exercise. In this case, however, the texts chosen for the exercise include
a fair number of gerundives. As in all such "free" exercises, the original
text has been de-combined into short sentences. Although this is a "free"
exercise, the directions do ask students to use gerundives as they combine
Section Seven, ("Just for Fun,") is
the same in all of the "grade-level" books—Robert Southey's humorous
poem, "The Cataract of Lodore." Its humor derives from the overwhelming
number of gerundives that Southey used to describe the water as it flows
down the cataract. Eight is a "Treasure Hunt."
- 1 (a and b) - Identification
- 2 - A Passage for Analysis
- 3 - Punctuation
Exercises That Don't Match the Format
(a and b) - Rewriting Gerundives as Finite Verbs
and Finite Verbs as Gerundives
[Five Sentences Each Way]
- 6 - Free Sentence-Combining
- 7 - Just for Fun
- 8 - A Treasure Hunt
Find five sentences that
include a gerundive and make an exercise (with an analysis key).
A Focus on Infinitives
Infinitives cannot be manipulated in the way
that gerundives can be, and, if students use the analytical method (sequence)
for identifying the types of verbals, they will have few problems with
them. The workbooks, however, include more exercises on infinitives than
they do on gerundives because unlike gerundives, which can always be explained
as adjectives, infinitives can function as adjectives, adverbs, or in almost
any way that a noun can. Because you will not find all of these functions
in any given text, the workbooks include exercises that focus on the various
The Exercises on Infinitives
Section One (two exercises) focuses
on identifying all the functions (noun, adjective, or adverb) of
infinitives. Section Two (one exercise) provides practice on the
subjects of infinitives.
They elected him president.
some grammar textbooks might describe "president" as an "objective" complement
whereas others might call it a "subjective" complement.
Section Three provides an exercise on infinitives as subjects
and/or complements -- "To know her is to love her." And, because they are
relatively rare, Section Four explores infinitives that function
as objects of prepositions, as in "They could do nothing but laugh."
Five (two exercises) focuses on infinitives that function as adjectives
In Section Six, two exercises are devoted
to "ellipsed infinitives." These are important analytically for
students' ability to understand and discuss sentence structure. Most grammar
textbooks include explanations of "objective" and "subjective" complements,
two concepts that I have never been able to understand because different
books explain them differently. For example, in the sentence
From the KISS perspective, "him president"
is better explained as an ellipsed infinitive phrase ("him *to be* president")
in which "him" is the subject of, and "president" is a predicate noun after,
an ellipsed "to be." The infinitive phrase is then the direct object of
"elected." This perspective enables KISS to completely eliminate the confusing
explanations of "objective" and "subjective" complements.
This KISS approach is also, I would suggest,
more consistent in naming the types of complements. In a sentence such
as "They considered the trip wonderful," the textbooks still call "wonderful"
either an objective or subjective complement. KISS, however, clearly
distinguishes the difference in function between "president" and "wonderful."
"Wonderful" is a predicate adjective in its ellipsed infinitive construction.
Ellipsed infinitives usually drop
a form of "to be." In many cases, this is not only easily seen, but also
They elected him *to be* president.
They considered the trip *to be* wonderful.
In other words, the ellipsed form is a variant of a standard form. But
if students are going to learn this, it is easily extended to cases in
which the "to be" would never appear. No one, for example, would say "You
may call me to be foolish." But the underlying structure of "You may call
me foolish" is the same as that in "They considered the trip wonderful."
Thus, rather than trying to introduce the confusing "objective" and/or
"subjective" complements, KISS considers "me foolish" as an ellipsed infinitive
construction that functions as the direct object of "call."
Section Seven presents two passages
eight, a "Treasure Hunt."
(a and b) - Mixed Infinitives
- Subjects of Infinitives
- Infinitives as Subjects and Complements
(a and b) -
Infinitives as Adjectives, Adverbs
- 7 (a and b) - Passages for Analysis
8 - A Treasure Hunt for
Find five sentences that
include an infinitive and make an exercise (with an analysis key). Include
at least one infinitive used as a noun, one as an adverb, and one
as an adjective.
Now Unused Exercises