Introduction to Gerunds
A gerund is a type of verb form that ends in '-ing'. Despite its verb-like appearance, a gerund is actually a type of noun. It can do almost anything that a typical noun can. For instance, it can function as the subject of a sentence, the object of a verb or preposition, and even become the complement of a subject.
The first rule in identifying a gerund is to look for words in a sentence that end in '-ing'. However, not all words that end in '-ing' are gerunds. It is crucial to remember that gerunds function as nouns, not verbs. Let's look at an example:
1. Running is a great way to stay fit.
In this sentence, 'Running' is a gerund. It's the subject of the sentence and doing the work of a noun, despite its verb-like appearance.
2. I am running to the store.
In this second sentence, 'running' is not a gerund but a present participle that forms part of the verb phrase 'am running'.
Test for Recognizing Gerunds
A handy tip for confirming whether an '-ing' word is a gerund is to see if you can replace it with a regular noun. If the sentence still makes sense, the '-ing' word is most likely a gerund. Let's apply this tip to the sentences we examined earlier.
1. Exercise is a great way to stay fit. (Makes sense. Therefore, 'Running' in the original sentence is a gerund.)
2. I am a trip to the store. (Doesn't make sense. Therefore, 'running' in the original sentence isn't a gerund but a present participle.)
Using Gerunds as the Subject of a Sentence
Gerunds can often be found functioning as the subject of a sentence, just like any other noun. Here are a few examples:
- Reading helps you to expand your vocabulary.
- Swimming is good for your health.
- Walking can be a good time to reflect on things.
In each of these sentences, the gerund (reading, swimming, walking) functions as the subject.
Using Gerunds as the Object of a Sentence
When a verb needs something to complete its thought, that something comes in the form of a direct object, which can be a gerund. For example:
- I love running in the morning.
- She hates cooking on weekends.
- He likes painting landscapes.
In these sentences, the gerund (running, cooking, painting) acts as the direct object of the verb.
Using Gerunds after Prepositions
Another common use of gerunds is following prepositions. Whether the preposition is part of a phrasal verb (a verb made up of a main verb plus one or two particles), or a standalone preposition, any '-ing' word that directly follows it is a gerund. For example:
- He's really good at dancing.
- We're thinking about taking a trip to the coast.
- Brian quit his job instead of accepting a transfer.
Here, dancing, taking, and accepting are gerunds as they follow the prepositions at, about, and of.
Gerunds Vs Infinitives
While gerunds and infinitives (to + base form of verb) can often be used interchangeably, there are some exceptions. Certain verbs and expressions always take a gerund as a complement, not an infinitive. Expressions with 'have', 'spend', and 'waste' are cases in point:
- I had a great time dancing at the party.
- He spent the entire day fixing his car.
- She wastes too much time worrying about little things.
Note: Other verbs always take an infinitive, not a gerund. Hence, knowledge of individual word preference is essential.
Understanding gerunds is a crucial aspect of mastering grammar. Keep practicing and testing your grammatical eye with the '-ing' words you come across. Consider whether they're gerunds, presenting participles, or even nouns. With continued practice, you will surely become adept at identifying and using gerunds appropriately in your writing.