Gerund (Explanation and Examples)

What is Gerund?

When an “ing” form of the verb acts as a noun it is called gerund.

A gerund is a verbal or non-finite verb and is often referred to as a verbal noun. It has the force of a verb and a noun.

There are three kinds of nonfinite verbs. The other two are the infinitive and the participle.

To understand this non-finite verb, we shall follow these rules:

  1. Morphology i.e. its word-form (formation of words)
  2. Syntax i.e. its function in a sentence
  3. Semantics i.e. its meaning

The Morphology of the Gerund

It has an “ing” ending. It is pertinent to note that all verbs ending in “ing” are not gerunds. Present participles also have the same form.

It is easy therefore to confuse it with a present participle. Hence, we cannot depend on morphology alone to identify it. We need to look also at the work it does in a sentence.

The Syntax of the Gerund

The gerund does the work of a noun in a sentence. This means, it can be any one of the following.

The subject of a verb, as in the sentence “Swimming is a good exercise.”

The word “swimming” is the subject of the verb ‘is’.

The object of a finite verb, as in this sentence. “You enjoy learning a new language.”

The word “learning” is the object of the finite verb enjoy.

Look at another example,

She intends to begin writing the story soon.

In above sentence, “writing” the object of a non-finite (an infinitive) verb “to begin”.

Now we see example of object of preposition.

He is interested in joining the group.

The word “joining” is the object of the preposition ‘in’.

Following is an example of indirect object of a verb.

She gave reading great importance in her life.

The word “reading” is the indirect object of the verb ‘gave’.

All these functions which the Gerund is shown doing are usually those of a noun. Depending on the function, the grammatical case of the gerund will be nominative or accusative or genitive, etc.

The Semantics of the Gerund

You know that the noun is a name. The gerund is also a name. It’s the name of an activity.

  • In so far as it is an activity, it is a verb.
  • In so far as it is a name, it is a noun.

Avoiding Confusion

Sometimes, not only the morphology but also the syntax may lead us to believe a word is a present participle. At such times semantics helps us to recognize a gerund.

Here are two examples,

  • Walking stick: The word walking looks like an adjective describing stick…but it is not. Walking stick is not a stick which walks. It is a compressed form of “stick for walking”. So walking is the object of the preposition for. So walking is a Gerund.
  • Reading room: The phrase does not mean that the room reads. It is a compression of “a room for (the purpose of) reading”, so reading is a gerund.
gerund examples
gerund examples

Certain words like adjectives, prepositions, verbs, nouns are followed by an “ing” form.

Use after certain adjectives

List of some common adjectives (with prepositions) followed by the gerund.

Afraid of Angry about/at
Bad at Clever at
Interested in Proud of
Crazy about Disappointed about
Excited about Famous for
Fond of Sorry about
Worried about  

Gerund Examples

  • He is afraid of going by plane.
  • I am interested in visiting the museum.
  • He is clever at skateboarding.
  • The girl is crazy about playing tennis.
  • I am worried about making mistakes.


That the following verb phrases required an (ing) form of a verb in the complement.

Approve of Don’t mind
Keep on Be better of
Forget about Look forward to
Can’t help Get through
Object to Count on
Insist on Think of

For example,

  • She forgot about cancelling her appointment.
  • He kept on working hard.

Use after certain prepositions

Prepositions followed by the gerund.

About After Apart from
Because of Before By
In Instead of On

For example,

  • Before going to bed he turned off the lights.
  • She avoided him by walking on the opposite side of the road.
  • We arrived in Madrid after driving all night.
  • He told the joke without laughing.

Use after certain verbs. List of verbs followed by gerund.

Admit Advise Allow
Appreciate Avoid Suggest
Understand Miss Reject
Consider Delay Deny
Dislike Enjoy Resist
Imagine Permit Practice
Complete Discuss Finish
Keep Mention Postpone
Quit Recall Recommend

For example,

  • I enjoy cooking.
  • He admitted having driven too fast.
  • He is considering buying a new house.
  • I delayed telling her the news.
  • They miss playing with their friends.
  • I miss watching the news when I am travelling.

Use after certain nouns

Some nouns with prepositions followed by gerund are listed here.

Advantage of Alternative of Chance of
Choice between Danger of Doubt about
Experience in Hope of Point in
Idea of Interest in Opportunity of
Pleasure in Reason for Trouble in
Waste of money Waste of time  


  • There is no point in waiting any longer.
  • What is the advantage of farming over hunting?
  • He is in doubt about buying the correct software for his computer system.
  • There is a real reason for winning the contest.

Rule for adding –ing suffix

If a verb ends with –e, it loses the last letter before adding the –ing suffix.

Following verbs require an infinitive for a verb in their complement.

Decide Hesitate Need
Refuse Appear Demand
Hope Offer Seem
Arrange Deserve Intend
Plan Tend Ask
Expect Learn Prepare
Threaten Claim Fail
Manage Pretend Wait
Consent Forget Mean
Promise Want  

Common Errors

I mean saying this. I mean to say this.
She expects going abroad next week. She expects to go abroad next week.

Gerund Vs Participle

Gerund has been clarified earlier with the help of examples. Now, we see how participle is different from gerund.


A participle is a verbal adjective. It is by birth a verb, but mostly serves nouns and pronouns as an adjective does.

There are three kinds of participles

  1. Present Participle
  2. Past Participle
  3. Perfect Participle

It is possible to recognize each of these types

  • From their morphology (form) and
  • Syntax (the work they do in the sentences)

Present Participle

The Present Participle is a non-finite verb ending e.g. eating, playing, singing, studying, sleeping etc.

However, this fact alone is not enough to recognize it for sure, because gerund also has the same ending.

A question arises here, “How to differentiate between the gerund and the present participle?”

A present participle does the work of an adjective, but a gerund does the work of a noun. Though both have the same form, they are different in the jobs they do. For example, I enjoy singing.

‘singing’ is the object of verb ‘enjoy’, being an object of a verb is the mark of a noun, therefore, ‘singing’ is a gerund.

Now we see another example

She is a singing girl.

‘singing’ describes the noun ‘girl’, describing a noun is the function of an adjective, therefore, ‘singing’ is a participle.

Past Participle

All past participles do not have one type of form. So they are harder to recognize. Here are some ways to help you recognize them.

  1. The often have one of these endings: -ed, -d, -t, -en, -n (For example, developed, hoped, burnt, fallen, grown).
  2. Sometimes they are formed by making an internal change in the basic form of the verb (e.g. sung from sing, won from win, bound from bind, met from meet)
  3. A third way of forming the past participle is by not changing the form of the verb at all (as in verbs; put, cut, set).

For example,

  • We have burnt table.
  • It is a full grown plant.

Perfect Participle

The form of this particular non-finite verb depends on the part participle.

The form is: the word ‘having’ + the past participle.

(e.g. having sung, having won, having met, having rested, having seen etc.)

For example: They went away having done their paper.

Verb Phrases

A verb phrase is a phrase consisting of a verb. All the phrases linked grammatically to that verb except a subject are also part of that verb phrase.

Here is an example test for verb phrases.

John ………………..

Any sequence which can fill the blank to make a grammatical sentence will probably be a verb phrase.


  • John is a writer. (verb phrase: is a writer.)
  • John wants to be a writer.
  • John is working in the garden.
  • John has told me that he will not come.
  • John will be vacationing in Glasgow. 

A verb phrase can contain a smaller verb phrase in it.

For example,

A verb phrase can contain a smaller verb phrase in it. Look at the following example, “will be vacationing in Mexico” contains the smaller verb phrase “vacationing in Mexico”. The predicate of the sentence is always a verb phrase. Verb phrases can also occur in non-predicate positions. In the next sentence, “Having finished her work, Susie went home”, the sequence, “having finished her work” is an example of verb phrase, but it is not the predicate position.