The words in the English language can be used in many ways. Although there are eight parts of speech, many words can be used as more than one part of speech. This is also true for verbs. Verbs can be used as adjectives depending on their function and usage in a sentence.
Verbs come in different forms: action, simple, present, past, present participle and gerund. This means that one word can take on several different forms of usage. For example, the verb "run" is a simple, present tense action verb. If you add “ing,” it becomes a participle that can be used as an adjective, “I forgot to turn the running water off before I left.” Running in this sentence is used as an adjective to describe the water.
Gerunds, or verbs with an “ing,” don’t have to be used as adjectives. Most of the time gerunds are used as nouns or as part of noun phrases, as in “Running around the track made me sleepy.” But these words can also be used as verbs as well. “I enjoy running around the track,” or “The water is running” use running as a verb. This interchange of usage gives the English language its uniqueness, but it can become confusing for non-native English speakers.
Adjectives are words that are used to modify or describe nouns or pronouns. Words like pretty, sturdy and happy are all adjectives that can be used to modify nouns and pronouns. These words do not alter in usage like verbs. They can, however, turn into adverbs if you add “ly.”
If you are confused on the usage of a particular word when reading an assignment or for pleasure, grammar books can be excellent resources to help you to determine proper usage of words. A good grammar book can become a reference tool that you use throughout your academic career. A small but really helpful grammar book is Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. This book will provide insight into the parts of speech, punctuation and commonly misused words.
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