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Grammar and Usage

What is a Gerund?

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.


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 

  • King
  • Ring
  • Thing
  • Something
  • Everything

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.


Gerunds and Infinitives: What is the Difference?

In today’s lesson we are going to compare two verbals: the gerund and the infinitive. From previous lessons, you learned that a gerund is a verb form that acts like a noun. And an infinitive is also a verb form that can take the form of a noun, an adjective, and an adverb. You will also hear infinitives and gerunds referred to as verb complements because they complete the meaning of the verb and they are also classed as non-finite verbs, meaning that they do not show tense. They always follow a main verb because on their own, the gerund and the infinitive do not indicate past, present or future. 

What is the Difference in Meaning Between the Gerund and the To-Infinitive?

But for today’s lesson we are going to look at the to-infinitive acting as a noun because if we’re going to compare it to the gerund, you know what the gerund acts like a noun so we want to be comparing the same function.

Let’s quickly review what gerunds and infinitives are. To start, gerunds and infinitives are verb complements because they complete or add to the meaning of the verb. Simply stated, a gerund is a verb plus the -ing ending. And it functions as a noun in the sentence by appearing as the subject, the subject complement, a direct object, an indirect object, the object of the preposition, an appositive, and following a possessive adjective.

The infinitive can function as an adjective and as an adverb and if you want to learn more about this, please check out the previous lesson and I’ll link it below. But for today’s lesson  we’re looking at the infinitive when it functions as a noun.

We will compare the gerund vs the to infinitive and their functions as subjects, subject complements, and direct objects.

We will also look at verbs that take only  the gerund, verbs that take only the infinitive, verbs that take both the gerund and the infinitive with little or no change in meaning, verbs that take the gerund  and infinitive with a change in meaning, and verbs that are followed by “to” plus the gerund.

Before we look at all the syntactic constructions, let’s try to answer the burning question that all students have: What is the difference in meaning between a gerund and an infinitive. Is there a difference between a gerund and an infinitive?

To answer this question we will refer to the work of two great early 20th century linguists:  Dwight Bolinger, an American linguist, who studied and wrote extensively on the nuance of language.  His 1977 work Meaning and Form was instrumental in establishing the principle that a difference in form implies a difference in perceived meaning.

And Otto Jespersen, Danish linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language and whose books such as Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (1922) and The Philosophy of Grammar (1924) challenged the accepted views of common concepts in grammar and proposed corrections to the basic definitions of grammatical concepts. Today, this book is still used as one of the basic texts in modern structural linguistics

According to Bolinger, The two complement forms (GERUND AND INFINITIVE) do express different shades of meaning: The gerund expresses habitual  and actual actions while the to-infinitive expresses future or potential actions. Gerunds describe actions that are real and actually happen real, vivid, fulfilled.

This also explains why verbs like enjoy and avoid take only the gerund (i.e., you can only enjoy things you’ve already experienced; to avoid something is a successful fulfillment of sorts). 

By choosing the gerund form, the preceding verb will imply a frequent, already experienced action, entailing positive or negative feelings toward the event. 

Verbs such as detest, dislike, enjoy, and prefer, refer to actions previously experienced, because we dislike/hate something only if we have previously experienced the action: “I dislike doing grocery shopping” or “I enjoy skating”. Indeed, these verbs do entail positive or negative feelings toward the actions as referring to ‘something actually done’. Its progressive aspect is another essential feature of the gerund, which can express actual past events.

INFINITIVES (specifically the to infinitive)

Infinitives describe unfulfilled outcomes hypothetical, future, unfulfilled. Verbs like want and hope take only the infinitive (i.e., they represent future unfulfilled events) If the to-infinitive form is chosen, then the preceding verb will entail a future meaning, implying ‘potentiality or ‘something projected’.

This principle explains why verbs like want and hope take only the infinitive (i.e., they represent future unfulfilled events). 

 If the to-infinitive form is chosen, then the preceding verb will entail, or accompany, a future meaning, implying ‘potentiality or ‘something projected’

Verbs such as plan, hope, want, wish, and so forth, imply a future action, something not yet experienced, or known: “I plan to go to Italy this summer”, or “I wish to go to Italy this summer”. These actions represent ‘something projected’ as opposed to ‘something actually done'(gerund).

File name : Common-Verbs-Followed-by-Gerunds-and-Infinitives.pdf