March 3, 2016

What are Gerunds and How Do You Use Them?

3 minute read

Gerunds might sound like a strange term to come across in English grammar, but they describe a very common part of the language. You’ll find gerunds in virtually everything you read, write or hear – and they’re quite easy to use!

Read on to find out what exactly a gerund is, and how to make sure you’re using them correctly.

What is a gerund?

A gerund is an instance when a verb is being used in a very particular way – as a noun!

You do this by changing the infinitive form of the verb, and adding “ing” at the end.

For example, “eat” is changed to “eating”, or “write” is changed to “writing”.

Let’s take a look at some gerunds in action:

“I enjoy writing – it’s my favourite hobby.”

“She gets quite nervous about flying.”

You might notice that a gerund takes the same form as the present participle of a verb – but it has a different meaning! A present participle, by contrast – plays the role of a verb.

Take a look at this example to see how it is different from a gerund:

“They go running each morning to train for the marathon.”

Although it looks like a verb, a gerund always follows the same rules as you would with a noun –it can be used as a subject just like any other noun. If you’re not sure whether you need to use a present participle or a gerund, imagine swapping the gerund for another simple noun – does the sentence still make grammatical sense?

Using gerunds with “to be”

One of the most common verbs that you will use with a gerund is the verb “to be” – this is the simplest way to present the gerund.

For example:

“Her big fear is driving on the main roads.”

Gerunds can be used in every tense in the same way. For instance:

“My goal for the year was finding a new job – and I did it.”

Using gerunds with prepositions and phrasal verbs

Prepositions are words such as “on”, “at” or “in”, that can be used to link nouns and noun phrases in a sentence.

When using any verb after a preposition, you must always use it as a gerund, and not in any other form.

For example:

“They are planning on arriving at midday.”

“He’s not very good at speaking in public.”

In the same way, when using a phrasal verbs, you must also use the gerund. Phrasal verbs are verbs formed in conjunction with a preposition or an adverb.

For example:

“Those children will grow up behaving very badly.”

“We have had to put off going on our holiday this year.”

Your turn

People can often get confused about how to use gerunds correctly because they are so similar to a verb – but by remembering one important fact – that they are nouns, not verbs – you will be able to avoid mistakes!

Make sure you practice using them correctly – try writing a few different examples with each of the different forms described above.