English language and grammar can be confusing, if the fundamentals of the usage of certain things aren’t understood in depth. Participles, Gerunds and Infinitives fall under the category of “verbals” or “non-finite verbs”. The above mentioned words contain verbs but these verbs do not act like verbs in the given sentence. Another important point to remember before moving on is that non-finites do not show any forms of tenses.

Participles

Participles are those words that are formed out of verbs, and they can also be used as adjectives in the sentence. In other words, the participles have the tendencies of both verbs and adjectives. The basic objective of using participles is to put the information in the sentence in such a manner that is easily understood and the objective of the sentence is clear.

Participles are associated with two forms of tenses, present and past tense; and are called “Present Participle” and “Past Participle” respectively. “Present Participle” is fairly easy to understand. These participles end with “ing” every time, without fail.

Examples:

  • I am looking for a book on economics.
  • She is not talking about the great depression.

Although present participles are easy to understand and identify, the past participles are not that simple. The verbs do not have a fixed end such as “ing” in present participles. Verbs for past participles may end with “ed”, “ought”, etc.

For example: For the verb “Buy”, the present participle would be “Buying” and the past participle would be “Bought”. And for the verb “End”, the present participle is “Ending” while the past participle is “Ended”. For verb “Break”, the present participle is “Breaking”, and the past participle is “Broken”. Another example is of the verb “Throw”, the present and past participle are “Throwing” and “Thrown” respectively.

The objective of the “Past Participle” is to tell about a purpose or something which has already taken place and has ended. In other words, it is a sentence talking about a completed action.

Examples:

  • The window was broken.
  • I had bought too many vegetables.
  • The movie ended on a bad note.
  • I had gone to the market.

Gerunds

Gerunds come from the Latin word “Gerere”, which meant “do”. “Gerunds” without any exceptions end with the “ing”. These words are a bit hard to spot in sentences, but knowingly or unknowingly all of us use gerunds in our day to day conversations.

The trick to understanding gerunds is to figure out the verbs which end with “ing”, for all gerunds are forms of verbs that act or operate as nouns in any given sentence. Another point to remember is that, the word sounds similar to present participles, but is not present participle.It is important to remember that present participles do not act as nouns, unlike gerunds. Gerunds can be various forms of subjects or objects of the sentences with “ing” at the end the word.

A Few Examples:

  • Writing is one of my favorite things to do.
  • Walking is a good exercise.

Infinitives

Infinitives, simply put are those words that are used after the word (preposition) “to”. Examples: to go, to read, to dance. Infinitives are used to express a person’s opinion or an objective about something. Also, they can be used as nouns, adverbs or adjectives. The best way to identify infinitives in a sentence is to look for a verb that does not give away any forms of tenses. Infinitives are verbs that do not show any form of tense.

Infinitives work on the principle of not changing regardless of the number, person or subject in the given sentence. These are also called the “to-infinitives”, because they can be identified due to “to” written before the word. The “infinitives” in the sentences will always remain the same. Examples to explain this phenomenon are given below:

  • I like to read.
  • She likes to read.
  • They like to read.
  • He liked to read.

Moreover, infinitives can be used in different forms such as with adverbs, with verbs (also called zero infinitives) and as questions. Read the following examples for a better understanding of the usage of these kinds of infinitives:

Adverbs:

  • He is not old enough to make this decision.
  • There isn’t enough snow to ski on!

Zero Infinitives:

  • Would you like a glass of juice?
  • His mother lets him stay out late

To Summarize:

  • All three, Participles, Gerunds and Infinitives forms of non-finite verbs in the English grammar. Non-finite verbs are also known as verbals.
  • Present participles always end with “ing”. Therefore they are easy to identify.
  • Past participles talk about actions and objectives that have already been completed. And have no fixed pattern.
  • Although Gerunds sound extremely complicated, are easy to use and understand. These words almost always end with “ing” too, but these words act as nouns in the given sentence, unlike present participles.
  • Gerunds are doing words, which also act as nouns.
  • Infinitives do not have tenses.
  • Infinitives are used mostly after the preposition “to”.