The Gerund

The gerund developed from the verbal noun, which in course of time became verbalized preserving at the same time its nominal character. The gerund is formed by adding the suffix -ing to the stem of the verb and coincides in form with Participle 1.

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The gerund has both nominal and verbal properties. The nominal characteristics of the gerund are as follows.

1) The gerund can be preceded by a preposition;

e.g. Before answering her question he thought a little.

2) It can have an attribute expressed by a possessive pronoun or a noun in the Genitive Case;

e.g. I insist on your going there right now.

3) Verbal properties of the gerund are as follows;

  1. a) it can take a direct object;

e.g. Excuse me for interrupting you.

  1. b) it can be modified by an adverb;

e.g. After working hard she felt tired.

  1. c) it has the following verbal forms;

Indefinite – translating (active) – being written (passive)

Perfect – having translated (active) – having been written (passive)

The Gerund has the following functions in the sentence.

  1. subject;

They say smoking leads to meditation. (Collins) (subject)

  1. object;

Children enjoy playing on the sand.

  1. attribute;

There are no chances of being promoted here.

  1. predicative;

His hobby is growing roses of different colors.

  1. adverbial modifier of

Time On reaching the hotel he got out of the taxi.

Manner The whole morning was spent in packing.

Attendant circumstances He left the room without saying good-by to anybody.

Purpose. This tool is used for cutting down trees.

Condition. You cannot go there without being invited.

Cause. He couldn’t attend classes because of being ill.

Concession. We could understand him in spite of his speaking rather fast.


The Use of Gerund

Infinitive Gerund as subject Gerund as object Gerund as object of a preposition
solve Solving problems is satisfying. I like solving problems. No one is better at solving problems.
jog Jogging is boring. He has started jogging. Before jogging, she stretches.
eat Eating too much made me sick. She avoids eating too much. That prevents you from eating too much.
investigate Investigating the facts won’t hurt. We tried investigating the facts. After investigating the facts, we made a decision.


In Modern English the gerund is widely used and often competes with the infinitive.

In the following cases only the gerund is used;

1) with the verbs and verbal phrases; to avoid, to burst out, to deny, to enjoy, to excuse, to fancy, to finish, to forgive, to give up, to go on, to keep on, to leave off, to mind, to put off, to postpone.

e.g. He avoided looking at Savina. (Wilson)

She burst out crying. (Collins)

Fancy finding you here at such an hour. (Hardy)

Forgive my speaking plainly. (Hardy)

They went on talking (Hardy)

Would you mind waiting a week or two? (Dreiser)

I don’t mind going and seeing her. (Hardy)

She could put off going over the house. (Eliot)

She couldn’t help smiling. (Mansfield).

2) With the following verbs and verbal phrases used with a preposition;

To accuse of, to approve of, to complain of, to depend on, to feel like, to insist on, to look like, to object to, to persist in to prevent from, to rely on, to speak of, to succeed in, to suspect of, to thank for, to think of, to give up the idea of, to look forward to, not to like the idea of.

e.g. They accuse me of having dealt with the Germans. (Heym)

I don’t feel like going out. (Wilson)

I rushed out to prevent her from seeing this dreadful sight. (Conan Doyle)

My medical adviser succeeded in saving my life… (Collins)

You suspect me of stealing your diamond (Collins)

I resolved not to think of going abroad any more. (Defoe)

I really thank you heartily for taking all this trouble. (Hardy)

Don’t miss the opportunity of hearing this pianist. (Dreiser)

3) With the following predicative word-groups with or without preposition;

To be aware of, to be busy in, to be capable of, to be fond of, to be guilty of, to be pleased at,

To be proud of, to be sure of, to be surprised at, to be worth.

e.g. I am very fond of being looked at. (Wilde)

She was not pleased at my coming. (Hitches)

She is proud of being so pretty. (Dickens)

The bridal party was worth seeing. (Eliot)

Are you sure of those words referring to my mother? (Collins)


The Function of the Gerund in the sentence

The gerund may be used in various syntactic functions. A single gerund occurs but seldom; in most cases we find a gerundial phrase or a gerundial construction.

1) The gerund as a subject.

e.g. Talking mends no holes. (proverb)

The gerund used as a subject may follow the predicate; in these cases the sentence opens with the introductory it or with the construction there is.

e.g. It’s no use talking like that to me. (Shaw)

2) The gerund as a predicative.

e.g. The only remedy for such a headache as mine is going to bed. (Collins)

3) The gerund as part of compound verbal predicate.

  1. a) With verbs denoting modality the gerund forms part of compound verbal model predicate.

e.g. We intend going to Switzerland, and climbing Mount Blanc. (Ch.Bronte)

  1. b) With verbs denoting the beginning, the duration or the end of an action, the gerund forms part of a compound verbal aspect predicate.

e.g. In the night it started raining. (Hemingway)

4) The gerund as an object.

The gerund may be used as a direct object and as a prepositional indirect object.

e.g. I simply love riding. (Galsworthy)

5) The gerund as an attribute.

In this function the gerund is always preceded by a preposition.

e.g. She had a feeling of having been worsted… (Galsworthy)

6) The gerund as an adverbial modifier.

In this function the gerund is always preceded by a preposition.

It is used in the function of an adverbial modifier of time, manner attendant circumstances, cause, condition, purpose and concession; the most common functions are those of adverbial modifiers of time, manner, and attendant circumstances.

Time. After living her umbrella in the hall, she entered the living room. (Cronin)

Manner. She startled her father by bursting into tears. (Gaskell)

Attendant circumstances. She was not brilliant, not active, but rather peaceful and statuesque without knowing it. (Dreiser)

Purpose. One side of the gallery was used for dancing. (Eliot)

Condition. He has no right to come bothering you and papa without being invited. (Shaw)

Concession. In spite of being busy he did all he could to help her. (Shaw)