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Using Verbs and Verb Phrases as Subjects

Using Verbs and Verb Phrases as Subjects

Traditional grammars define the verb as a “word that denote an action or a state of being.” A verb phrase is a grammatical structure that consists of a verb that functions as the verb phrase head plus any auxiliary verbs, particles, modifiers, complements, and objects.

In grammar, a subject is a word, phrase, or clause that performs the action of or acts upon the verb functioning as a predicate. Verb phrases in the form of present participles and infinitives sometimes function as subjects in English. Some grammars refer to present participles that perform nominal functions as gerunds. Examples of verbs and verb phrases as subjects include the following:

  • Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. (present participle)
  • Study the English language requires effort and diligence. (present participle)
  • Listening to quiet music can relax you before bed. (present participle)
  • The running of the bulls is a controversial event. (present participle)
  • To err is human. (infinitive)
  • To forgive is divine. (infinitive)
  • To not finish the race now would be a shame. (infinitive)
  • To never accomplish my goals is my biggest fear. (infinitive)

Present Participle as Subject

Present Participle as Subject Grammar Tree

Infinitive as Subject

Infinitive as Subject Grammar Tree


Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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