A gerund – pronounced to rhyme with “errand” with a soft g (as in genius) – is a type of word that looks like the present participle of a verb (e.g., “writing,” “learning”) but functions as a noun. Gerunds can therefore be confusing because they look like verbs but don’t act like them!
In today’s post, we explain the different ways you can use gerunds in your writing with plenty of examples to help you understand how they work.
What Is a Gerund?
Gerunds can be formed from literally any verb. In most cases, you form one by simply taking the base verb and adding ing at the end:
Learn / learning
Go / going
Read / reading
Drink / drinking
Watch / watching
Laugh / laughing
There are some exceptions to this when the base verb has to be modified. For example, for verbs that end in ie, you replace ie with y before adding ing, like this:
Lie / lying
Tie / tying
Die / dying
With verbs that end in e (but notie), you remove the e before adding ing, like this:
Write / writing
Arrive / arriving
Examine / examining
Chuckle / chuckling
Finally, there are some verbs for which the doubling up rule applies. This means you double the final consonant in single-syllable verbs that end with a single vowel followed by a single consonant:
Rub / rubbing
Jot / jotting
Plan / planning
Grin / grinning
Now that you know how to form gerunds, let’s look at how to use them:
Using a Gerund as the Object of a Sentence
Each of the following sentences has a gerund as its direct object (i.e., the noun that’s acted upon by the verb):
Gina loves dancing.
Terry is obsessed with exercising.
Raymond has mastered hula hooping.
You can add modifiers to gerunds to create gerund phrases:
Gina loves interpretive dancing.
Terry is obsessed with exercising his upper body.
Raymond has mastered the art of hula hooping.
Using a Gerund as the Subject of a Sentence
In the next examples, the sentence subjects are gerunds:
Dancing is one of Gina’s favorite hobbies.
Exercising is important to Terry.
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Hula hooping is one of Raymond’s secret talents.
Again, we can add modifiers to make more descriptive gerund phrases:
Dancing in front of an audience is what Gina likes best.
Daily exercising keeps Terry fit.
Raymond’s hula hooping skills are unmatched.
Gerunds as Subject Complements
Subject complements are words or phrases that come after a linking verb – often a form of the verb to be (e.g., is, was, am, are) – and describe or define the subject. You use gerunds in subject complements when they refer to any kind of activity:
Charles’s hobby is cooking.
A detective’s job is solving mysteries.
A perfectionist’s biggest fear is making mistakes.
Gerunds in Compound Nouns
Compound nouns are nouns made up of more than one word. Many compound nouns include gerunds:
Although the first word in each of these examples is a verb, it isn’t functioning as a verb. The site is for building, but it doesn’t build. The water doesn’t drink, the pool doesn’t swim, etc.!
Summary: The Many Uses of Gerunds
Gerunds can be confusing, especially if English isn’t your first language. This is because they’re spelled exactly like the present participle form of a verb, but they act like nouns (or parts of compound nouns).
Hopefully, you now feel more confident about using gerunds in your writing. If there’s an area of grammar that you’re not sure about, check out our blog for more writing tips. And if you’d like a professional to check any of your work for errors, our proofreaders are here to help. Why not try our service today by uploading your first document for free?