When is a verb a noun?

As others have pointed out, both gerunds and infinitives are nouns. They are categorized as verbals, which is another way of saying they are words that are derived from verbs but function as nouns (in the case with gerunds and infinitives) or adjectives (in the case of participles).

Gerunds and infinitives can function as subjects or objects just like any other noun:

Walking is healthy.
John likes walking.

To laugh in the face of adversity helped Donna cope with life. (While using an infinitive as a subject is grammatically correct, it is a bit archaic.)
We need to laugh every day.

However, confining the answer to your question to just gerunds and infinitives is too restrictive. In fact, the English language is full of words that can be either nouns or verbs.
Here are just a few:


The list goes on and on. Context is key; without it, there is no way to determine the function of these words.
"Verb" is a noun.
Feeling can be a verb or a noun.
feeling and feelings,
feeling and felt
When your doing it
In your question, it is!
Really, whenever it's used as a noun. The most often seen verbs as nouns are the participles - the '-ing' words.

He was floating down the river - Verb, past progressive tense
Floating down the river is fun - Noun
She is baking cookies - Verb - present progressive tense
Baking is her hobby - Noun

Infinitives used as nouns are also common:

To drive is easier than to walk.
To ski takes skill.

It's really common in English to use a verb as a noun, and that's one thing that makes English a very flexible language.

ADDED: Gerund is indeed the term for a present participle used as a noun, as noted in answers below. However, gerunds are not the only verbs used as nouns - the infinitives used as nouns are not called 'gerunds'.

ADDED 2: The answer below that infinitives are NEVER used as nouns is totally wrong, both in its characterization of gerunds and its statement about infinitives. Examine the ones above that are criticized. 'Floating down the river is fun' The subject is 'floating', the predicate is 'is'. As the subject of the sentence, 'floating' is a noun. Same analysis for 'baking' Look at 'To ski takes skill.' The subject of the sentence is 'To ski' - an infinitive used as a noun. The references cited below show many additional examples of infinitives used as nouns, along with explanations.
When it is a gerund. A gerund is a verbal that is used in context as a noun. For example, the verb will be to sing and the gerund will be singing. Example: Verb: She sings every day.; Gerund: Singing is a very fun activity. In the first example the base sing is a verb and in the second it is a noun or gerund.
"Verb is a noun. Many other words are either nouns or verbs depending on the context in which they are used.
An example-"Don't kick me!" The 'kick' in here is a verb. This is a noun-"He gave her a kick."
A noun has a, an, or the before it.
Verbs are what you do.
When it's a gerund...eg cooking (can be a noun..nice cooking
or a verb..I like cooking)
A verb is an action word.
A noun is a person, place or thing.

The word "love" is a great example of a word which can be used both ways.
1. I love my husband. (verb)
2. Love is a wonderful thing. (noun)

Or consider the word "fly".
1. A fly is an annoying insect. (noun)
2. Superman can really fly. (verb)
I must do the washing.
I am washing my face.
A verb is a noun when it becomes the subject or the object of another verb (or the sentence). The gerund (-ing form) of the verb is used.

For example.

Smoking is bad for your health.

Here, the verb to smoke becomes a noun (as a gerund). It is the subject of the sentence and the verb to be. In the next sentence, it is the object of the verb to hate:

My mum hates smoking.

Verbs can also become nouns in the Imperative:

No Smoking
No Parking

the people who have told you about gerunds are correct to the extent that the past/present participle of a verb - the ___ing form - can often be used as a noun, and is then called a gerund.

however, you've been given some very poor examples. and the infinitive of a verb is NEVER used as a noun. it is the infinitive of a verb. full stop. an infinitive is always a *doing* word, not a *thing* word. (verbs are actions, nouns are things, tangible or intangible.)

as a rule of thumb, and excepting proper nouns, for something to be a noun, you have to be able to put *the* or *a/an* in front of it.

so 'the to swim'? 'a floating'? don't think so. and 'swimming' and 'baking' as used in the sentences given are not nouns either... they are still verbs.

*proper* examples would be:
she was stitching with yellow thread. (verb)
the stitching she had done was tiny. (noun)
he was swimming in the sea. (verb)
the swimming was fun that day. (noun)
they were feeling shy. (verb)
the feeling they had was shyness. (noun)
he had been baking all day. (verb)
baking was on sale at his stall. (noun - *the* is impliled)

alternatively - *a verb* is always a noun.

ok. maybe I'm wrong here, but I think that there is a difference between something "functioning as a noun" in a sentence, and it actually *being* a noun...? so an infinitive can "function as a noun", be the subject/object of a sentence, yes. but that doesn't mean it *is* a noun.
a rolled up jumper can function as a pillow, but it isn't a pillow...
A verb cannot be used as a noun. However, verbs plus "ing" at the end (i.e., running, jogging) are called Gerunds, and these can be used as nouns. Strictly speaking, verbs and gerunds are different parts of speech.

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