Gerund – Definition and Sentence Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Gerunds hit two birds with one stone because they look like verbs but act like nouns. They all end in “-ing,” but not all “-ing” words are gerunds.

So, what is a gerund? Keep reading to learn about its functions and how to use it in a sentence. I’ll also show you many gerund examples to avoid grammatical mistakes.

What is a Gerund?

In proper grammar, gerunds are a deverbal noun in the “-ing” form but function as ordinary nouns in an English sentence.  Since it’s a noun, a gerund can be any of the following:

  • Subject.
  • Direct object.
  • Indirect object.
  • Object of the preposition
  • Subject complement.

Gerunds are formed by adding “-ing” to the base form of the verb to become an English noun. Some consider a gerund as an “action noun.”

The English grammar rule is that a verb shows action, condition, or the state of being while expressing time. But the gerund doesn’t perform any of those functions despite looking like a verb. Some believe that gerunds are abstract nouns because they denote a concept.

Here’s an example:

  • Swimming is challenging to learn.

The term “swimming” has a subject function instead of a lexical verb. Therefore, it’s in the gerund form.

  • Joan is currently swimming in the kiddie pool.

In the sentence above, “is swimming” is the verb phrase that shows action while expressing time. 

Here are more gerund examples:

  • Doing homework is stressful.
  • Dancing is my passion.
  • I consider putting a mask on a form of self-care

What are the 5 Types of Gerunds?

Gerunds have five different types depending on their functions in sentences.

Subject Gerunds

Gerunds can be subjects in the S-V-O pattern of sentences. The term subject is a noun function meaning the thing that performs the action in the sentence–for example:

  • Running is good for the heart.

The grammatical subject in this sentence is “running.”

Direct Object Gerunds

Gerunds can also be in the objective case being governed by the verb. Here’s an example:

  • I like talking to you.

Indirect Object Gerunds

Gerunds can also be recipients of an action. Consider this sentence:

  • I make working out a daily routine.

Subject Complement Gerund

You’ll also come across gerunds complementing subjects of sentences–for example:

  • The most therapeutic thing for me is meditating.

Object of Preposition Gerunds

A gerund can also be an object of a prepositional phrase. Objects of preposition always work with prepositions in sentences–for example:

  • She got suspended for cheating.

These examples show how you can use gerunds in a sentence:

  • Subject, specific: Trying new restaurants is my favorite thing to do.
  • Direct object: I love taking a bath at night.
  • Indirect object: The instructor gave singing a try.
  • Subject complement: Her chosen weekend activity is walking in the park.
  • Object of the preposition: I have a love-hate relationship with hiking.

What is a Gerund Phrase?

A gerund phrase is a phrase with a gerund and words that modify it or objects. Here are some sentence examples that contain gerund phrases:

  • Playing with fire is dangerous.
  • I can still recall falling in love with you.

The gerund phrase functions as a subject or object in sentences too.

What is a Gerund Clause?

In traditional grammar, a subject only occurs within finite clauses where it has to agree with the amount of finite verb forms.

Gerund clauses are non-finite clauses because they include a secondary verb. They include the infinitive and gerundive forms since these verbs cannot be inflected for tense. Here’s an example:

  • I was surprised at Joe doing household chores.

The entire clause here is “Joe doing household chores.” You can remove the subject of the gerund (I was surprised at doing household chores.) 

If your sentence has no object, use a gerund after the verb in active clauses–for example:

  • I wouldn’t recommend reading that book. (not “I wouldn’t recommend to read the book.)

The subject must be overtly specified, usually before the non-finite verb form. This example uses the objective “them” because the subject is not the finite clause’s grammatical subject.

  • I enjoyed him singing. 

Many do not agree that “them” is a subject. In fact, the prescriptive rule is that one must object to the use of forms appropriate to the subjects of these clauses. That’s because they lead to two noun expressions that are not connected.

How Do You Identify a Gerund?

Many people confuse gerunds with present participle phrases because they take the “-ing form” in writing. It’s one of the several writing issues that even native speakers encounter.

The best way to identify a gerund is by remembering that its role is a verbal noun or noun phrase. Meanwhile, the present participle form functions as a verb phrase.

Some also find it challenging to differentiate between the gerund and infinitive forms. The infinitive pattern always starts with a “to” and then the basic form of an action word. Gerunds take the base form plus “-ing.” Both are used in a noun sense.

Unless the sentence contains modal verbs, two verbs joined together means the second one is either an infinitive or gerund–for example:

  • I like listening to music.

A gerund phrase may be hard to spot in a larger sentence. Here’s an example:

  • I wish you like my offering you this gift.

The possessive form of the pronoun “my” is an adjective form that describes or modifies the gerund “offering.” The indirect object of the sentence is “you”, while “this gift” is the direct object of the gerund. All in all, the gerund phrase is “my offering you this gift.”

You can also use a non-possessive noun or pronoun (e.g., me, Candace) before the gerund. Doing so will help emphasize the actor over the action.

Gerund in Other Languages

Gerunds have different uses and styles in other languages. A Latin gerund is formed using -andum, -endum, and noun inflexions. 

Romance languages do not have case inflections and are used in an adjectival function. In French grammar, a gerund is formed using the stem form and the suffix -ant.

Learn More About Verbals

Gerunds are one of the verbals with noun properties, an adjectival function, or an adverbial function. To recall, a gerund ends in “-ing” and has the role of a noun. 

Be careful not to mistake the progressive tense for a gerund. The gerund must take the position of either a subject or object in the sentence.