• 3-minute read
  • 4th January 2021

Grammar Tips: What Is a Gerund?

Even if you have never heard the word “gerund” before, you probably use gerunds all the time if you speak English. But what are “gerunds”? And how do you use these words correctly in your writing? This post will explain the basics.

What Is a Gerund?

In short, a “gerund” is a noun formed by adding “-ing” to the base form of a verb.

For example, “reading” is the gerund form of the verb “read.” This may still look like a verb (it is, in fact, identical to the present participle verb form, which also ends with “-ing”). But it functions like a noun by naming something. For instance:

Reading is an excellent learning tool.

I enjoy reading.

Brian’s favorite hobby is reading.

These sentences do not describe anyone performing the action of reading. Rather, in all three, “reading” is a gerund that names an activity.

In English, gerunds have three main uses. These are as:

  1. The subject of a sentence
  2. The object of a sentence
  3.  A subject complement in a sentence

Below, we will look at what these involve in more detail.

1. Gerunds as Sentence Subjects

The subject of a sentence is the person or thing that performs the action of the main verb. For instance, we often use gerunds to talk about activities or behavior:

Reading is an excellent learning tool.

Here, the gerund “reading” is the subject of the sentence. In other words, we’re describing the activity “reading” as “an excellent learning tool.”

In other cases, we can add modifiers after a gerund to make a gerund phrase:

Eating healthy food makes me feel good.

Here, the subject of the sentence is “eating healthy food,” which contains the gerund “eating.” This serves as the subject of the main verb “makes.”

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As shown in the examples here, when we use gerunds as subjects, the following verb always takes the third-person singular form.

2. Gerunds as Sentence Objects

Gerunds can also act as the object of a sentence (i.e., the thing being acted on):

I enjoy reading.

She hates dancing.

Here, for example, the gerunds “reading” and “dancing” are the objects of the sentences (i.e., the thing enjoyed and the thing hated, respectively).

Gerunds can also be the object of a preposition (e.g., “of,” “to,” “in,” “on”). You can therefore use a gerund in a prepositional phrase to modify a noun or verb:

This book about swimming is fascinating.

Terry is interested in sewing.

In the first sentence above, the phrase “about swimming” modifies the noun “book” to tell us what it is about. And in the second sentence, the phrase “in sewing” modifies the verb “interested” to tell us what Terry is interested in.

3. Gerunds as Subject Complements

A subject complement is a word or phrase that follows a linking verb, such as the various forms of “be,” and describes the subject of the sentence. For instance:

Brian’s favorite hobby is reading.

Susan’s first job was driving a taxi.

Here, “reading” acts as a complement by identifying Brian’s favourite hobby. Similarly, in the second example, the gerund “driving” is part of a complement to the subject “job,” helping to describe what Susan did for her first job.

Proofreading for Grammar

Hopefully, this has shown that grammar doesn’t have to be intimidating! But if you have any concerns about the grammar in your writing, try our proofreading trial service. Get a 500-word document proofread for free today to find out more.

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