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What Is a Gerund and Why Care?

What is a gerund and why do you need to know? Maybe it would be better to answer the second part of the question first so that you have some motivation to identify gerunds. If you are able to pick the gerund(s) out in your sentence, you will avoid a grammar gaffe that often goes unnoticed even by seasoned editors. Is your curiosity at least somewhat piqued?

Gerunds, also called verbal nouns, are formed when verbs have -ing added to them and are used as nouns.

Examples:
Walking is great exercise.
Hiking up that steep mountain seems impossible.
Talking more about this will not change my mind.

Note that in each of the examples above, the -ing word—the gerund—acted as the subject of the sentence.

Gerunds, like other nouns, may also act as direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of the preposition.

Examples:
We like talking on the phone every night. (direct object)
I give him credit for talking. (object of the preposition for)

It is helpful to recognize gerunds because if a noun or pronoun precedes a gerund, it is usually best to use the possessive form of that noun or pronoun.

Correct: My running ahead bothered him.
Incorrect: Me running ahead bothered him.

Correct: Their separating does not mean they won’t continue to be good parents to their three children.
Incorrect: Them separating does not mean they won’t continue to be good parents to their three children.

Examples:
Alex’s skating was a joy to behold.
Ben’s walking improved once his ankle healed.
The girl’s dancing won her a trip to Hawaii.

 

Pop Quiz
Identify the gerund in each sentence. If there is a noun or pronoun preceding it, make the noun or pronoun possessive.

1. Working efficiently is required in the restaurant business.
2. She won three gold medals for swimming.
3. The devaluing of the dollar continued throughout the summer.
4. Don’t criticize me trying to get his attention.
5. I’d like to know Alicia thinking about the issue.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Working efficiently is required in the restaurant business.
2. She won three gold medals for swimming.
3. The devaluing of the dollar continued throughout the summer.
4. Don’t criticize my trying to get his attention.
5. I’d like to know Alicia’s thinking about the issue.

Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007, at 6:00 pm


19 Comments

19 Responses to “What Is a Gerund and Why Care?”

  1. Hiro Aki says:

    More people should know about this; if anything, it’s the difference between a 780 and a perfect 800 on the writing portion of the SAT.

  2. sekhar says:

    “Their separation does not mean they won’t continue to be good parents to their three children” – is this correct?

  3. Jane says:

    Yes, this is also correct.

  4. nisha says:

    Hi Jane,
    can we use two gerunds in one sentence. for example : Listening is something you need to work on.It this sentence correct ?

    Regards
    Nisha

    • Jane says:

      Yes, you can have two gerunds in one sentence but your sentence only has one. In your sentence “listening” is a gerund, but “something” is not. A gerund is formed when verbs have -ing added to them and are used as nouns. “Something” does not fit that description. Here are examples of sentences with two gerunds:

      Walking and hiking are both good exercise.
      Flying and driving both take intense concentration

  5. Truthspeaks says:

    Hey Jane,

    In quiz question #1, “efficiently” is an adverb, but adverbs can only modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. If gerunds are verbal “nouns,” would “working still be regarded as a gerund?

    Working moms are required in the restaurant business. (“working” as an adj.)
    Working is required in the restaurant business. (“working” as a gerund)
    Working efficiently is required in the restaurant business. (???)

    • Jane says:

      Gerunds can be complex. I can understand your confusion since adverbs usually modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. In the case of the sentence “Working efficiently is required in the restaurant business,” you need to use the adverb efficiently rather than the adjective efficient because it answers how people are working. The phrase “working efficiently” serves as a noun phrase and is the subject of the sentence. I hope this helps to clarify a bit.

  6. john says:

    >>> why gerunds can’t use a punctuation?

  7. Sue says:

    Is this sentence incorrect:

    I apologize for the oversight in your not getting a copy of the Motion when it was filed with the Court.

    Microsoft Word is telling me that I should use “you” instead of “your.” I am wondering if I should correct the sentence or ignore what Microsoft Word is telling me…..

    Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      Our blog What is a Gerund and Why Care says, “Gerunds, also called verbal nouns, are formed when verbs have -ing added to them and are used as nouns. It is helpful to recognize gerunds because if a noun or pronoun precedes a gerund, you want to use the possessive form of that noun or pronoun.” The gerund is getting, so the possessive form your is correct.

      I apologize for the oversight in your not getting a copy of the Motion when it was filed with the Court.

  8. Grace says:

    Dear Jane,
    Are these Gerunds?

    a) A wildfire threatened the town, forcing its residents to flee. (FORCING)

    b) Residents are used to damaging wildfires. (DAMAGING)

    When I’m not sure if it’s a gerund, I try to reorder a sentence, making the -ing word in question a subject. If it works and the meaning remains the same, then it’s a gerund for me. (I hate writing. Writing is what I hate.) I think writing is a gerund. Am I right? It doesnt quite work with the 2 sentences a, b so I feel they are not gerunds.

    Thanks so much for taking the time.

    Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      The words forcing and damaging are not gerunds. Gerunds are formed when verbs have -ing added to them and are used as nouns. Thus, your method works because subjects are nouns. In your first sentence forcing is an action verb. In your second sentence damaging is an adjective describing wildfires. And writing is a gerund in your example.

  9. Mojtaba A. says:

    If we want to refer the word Sharon and his family and say Sharons, is it correct that we say, “Sharons’ arriving was unexpected.”?
    Rule 12: Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).

    • Jane says:

      Yes, but we would probably write it as “The Sharons’ arriving was unexpected.” A simple way of avoiding this would be to write “Arrival of the Sharons was unexpected.”

  10. TheWritersBlock says:

    This is one I argue over with other proofreaders. In the following sentence, which is correct?

    The toothpaste is clinically proven to deliver immediate relief, providing better patient comfort.
    OR
    The toothpaste is clinically proven to deliver immediate relief, which provides better patient comfort.

  11. preet says:

    why we use gerund. actually.i couldn’t understand that why we use gerund in sentence and give me some example.i tried to studied above sentences but i could’nt.so please

    • We are sorry that you are not able to understand the basic explanation and examples of gerunds contained in our lesson above. We suggest that you take an English class or seek an individual tutor who can explain this to you.

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