A gerund is a type of verbal that has the form of a verb but acts as a noun. In fact, because a gerund looks identical to the present participle some grammarian refer to it as the gerund-participle. This is because both the gerund and the present participle end in -ing and are formed from verbs.
Let’s clarify: Some grammar sites will tell you that a participle can function as a noun and this is technically true, but you could say that a present participle that functions a noun is a gerund.
What is a Gerund?
But how can a word derived from a verb and called a verbal act as a noun? There’s a simple explanation. The gerund expresses the abstract concept of the verb.
A gerund is a verbal. This means that it expresses and abstract concept, a thing. For example, walking is a thing. You do this thing or you act on this thing.
Thinking is a thing you do
So is loving, eating, swimming, and running.
Let’s delve deeper into what a gerund actually represents. So we know that a gerund is formed from a verb. A verb is defined as either an action or a state of being. A gerund, in effect, represents the concept of the action, not the actual performance. We can use gerunds to talk about these actions or states of being in an abstract way.
So a way to think about gerunds is to view them as a representation of a concept or a thing that you do or are.
For example, let’s think about singing. Singing is something you do. It’s an action when you’re actively doing it. I am singing. In this example, singing is a verb. However, when you think about that action, that thing called singing, you’re actually thinking of an abstract concept, and this representation of that abstract concept is what we call a gerund when the verb form takes on the -ing.
Singing in the shower reduces stress levels. In this example, the concept, the thing of singing in the shower is what is being discussed. In this example singing in the shower is a gerund phrase.
Tips to Identify a Gerund
Two tips to identify the gerund:
Let’s look at the gerund. Let’s begin by sharing a tip that you can use to identify any noun or noun form. If you can replace a word, phrase, or clause with a pronoun, usually, “It” or the demonstrative pronouns “this” or “that”, then you have a noun.
What differentiates the usage of a present participle as a noun (gerund) or as an adjective (participial) is it’s function or place in the sentence and the punctuation around it.
Where can you find a gerund in the sentence?
A gerund can function as a subject, a subject complement, a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition. Of you can find the gerund as a phrase as part of any of these forms.
Let’s try it
Bowling is not an Olympic sport.
Meditating helps me relax.
Reading is fundamental.
Quitting your job is not an option right now.
Memorizing the lines requires focus and concentration.
Skiing on compacted snow can be dangerous.
Ralph’s passion is teaching international students.
The baby’s new habit is throwing her food on the floor.
Rick’s new hobby is flying a small plane.
Ralph enjoys teaching English to international students. (answers what of the verb)
Kaylee remembers leaving a message.
Jose gave learning the piano another chance.
Shannon made serving the poor her lifelong career.
OBJECT OF A PREPOSITION
Antoine was sent to the principal’s office for cheating.
Father grounded me for driving the car without his permission.
Just because a word ends in -ing does not mean it’s a gerund. Remember that a gerund is a verbal that looks like a verb because it is derived from a verb. However, because of its place in the sentence, it acts like a noun.
ING words like
are not gerunds although they end in ing.
And then we have the present participle which looks just like a gerund because unless you identify the function in the sentence, you will not know for sure just by looking at it.