Verbal noun

A verbal noun is a noun formed directly as an inflexion of a verb or a verb stem, sharing at least in part its constructions. This term is applied especially to gerunds, and sometimes also to infinitives and supines.

Examples of the verbal noun in English sentences:

  • The question of being is an intrinsic part of philosophy. (being is a gerund)
  • The writing of a book is always an ambitious undertaking. (writing is the verbal noun)
  • I am against the removal of the previous candidate. (removal is technically a verbal noun, but see below)
  • To speak is not to listen. (to speak and to listen are infinitives acting as nouns; in other words: Speaking means that one is not listening; here, speaking is a gerund, and listening a present participle)
  • Going is hardly as easy as standing. (going and standing are imperfect participles, or infinitives in -ing acting as nouns; in other words, gerunds)

Some claim that true nouns sharing the stem of their respective verbs are also verbal nouns (such as survival from survive). However, in English grammar it is a little accepted view, on the grounds that it would make nearly all nouns verbal nouns; but in some other languages, such as Arabic, that view is the only possible one, as there is no gerund or infinitive form of a verb (the Arabic masdar is a verbal noun: naql, for example, can be translated as "transporting" or "to transport", but its literal meaning is "transportation".)

In other languages:


  • Das Trinken des Wassers ist uns wesentlich "To drink water is essential for us" (Trinken, an infinitive, here acts as a verbal noun. Literally: "The drinking of the water...").


  • من الممكن مقابلته غدا (Mina al-mumkini muqābalatuhu ghadan) "It is possible to interview him tomorrow" (muqābalah is the verbal noun, and its literal meaning is "interview". Literally, the sentence means "interviewing him is possible tomorrow").

Types of verbal nouns

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