A verbal is a word that looks like a verb but does not have the role of any verb.
Just look at the following example: “The smell of these roses reached my nose.”
Now, what’s this sentence’s subject sentence? Your first impulse might be that you’d say that in this sentence, the word “roses” is the subject since it is so close to the verb “was reaching“.
The transcript is provided for your convenience
Well, I will underline “reached” two times because it is a verb.
But actually, in this sentence, “roses” isn’t the subject because, in fact, the “roses” are not reaching my nose. What reached my nose is the “smell“. Now, this may be confusing to you because you may think of “smell” like a verb. In this case, however, “smell” is a noun that is having the role of the sentence’s subject here.
Now, let’s look at another example:
“I smell the cake.”
In this example, “I” is the sentence’s subject, while “smell” is here the verb. So, the word “smell” can actually play different roles. In our example, it plays the role of a verb, though, in our first sentence, it’s actually a verbal. In the first example, “smell” is a noun and as in that sentence also the subject.
Let’s take a look at one more example:
“Swimming really is enjoyable”
In this sentence, “is” is the verb and the subject here is “Swimming“. “Swimming“, however, could be the verb of another sentence as well. Well, in this case, “Swimming” is a verbal that plays the role of the sentence’s subject.
Verbals can be the object of prepositions as well, like in the following sentence:
“I am not so pleased about leaving”
Well, “I” is the subject here, while “am” and “pleased” are the verbs and “about” is here a preposition while “leaving” is the preposition’s object. So in our example, “I” is the subject and “am” and “pleased” are verbs. Now, what is “leaving” then if “leaving” here is not a verb? Well, in our example, “about” is actually a preposition and all prepositions and prepositional phrases are having an object of that preposition. So here, “leaving” is actually the object of that preposition.
And why is it the object of that preposition? Well, because it’s a further explanation of the preposition.
Now let’s look at the following sentence:
“I hate taking the medicine”
In this sentence, “I” is the subject while “hate” is the verb. Well, you may be tempted to think that the verb is “taking”, or that the words “hate taking” collectively form the verb phrase. But here, “hate” is actually the only verb. “Taking” may at times take the role of a verb yet here, it is a verbal. So here, it’s having the role of object of our verb. That is the role “taking” is having. It is the object of our verb.
Now the last example:
“Listen to that soothing music”
Here, “Listen” is our verb. So “soothing” cannot be the verb. Now, what is “soothing” then doing here? Well here, the word “soothing” is describing the word “music“ as it is telling us more about the music. “Soothing” is describing the music. It is telling us that the music is soothing. Now, in this sentence, what is the word “music“? Well, in this example, “music” is just a noun and “soothing” describes “music“. And we know that words describing nouns are adjectives. So in this example, “soothing” plays the role of an adjective.
So remember that verbals are just words that look like verbs, but they play a different role in sentences.