It is true that the English language is a hard subject to study and understand. Contrary to what others believe in, the English language goes beyond the basic subject-verb agreement. Although they are fundamentals of the language, there are still other important and determining aspects that one needs to thoroughly study and clearly understand in order to have a strong and effective command of the language. It is important that you look beyond the surface, and have the curiosity to dig deeper in order for you to discover the wonders of the English language.
But before you even start on that learning journey, you still need to make sure that you have the basics mastered. This means that in order to understand the complexity and profoundness of the more advanced aspects of the language, you need a strong foundation. You have to be knowledgeable about the about the basics in order for you to easily comprehend the concepts on the other more complicated components of the language.
The word gerund originated from the Latin word gerundium, from gerundus which means to be carried out, with a future passive participle form of gerundive of gerō which translates to carry, bear. Gerund is defined as a verbal form that functions as a verbal noun. In other languages, specifically Dutch, Italian, or Russian, it is a verbal form that is similar to a present participle, but it functions as an adverb to form adverbial phrases or continuous tenses.
Some people call it the -ing form of a verb. However, although it is a verb, it acts as a noun when used in sentences. There is no exception in the form a gerund takes, every verb that ends with -ing is generally a gerund. However, although they have a specific form, it can still get tricky to spot since the present participle form of a verb also ends with -ing. When you master how a gerund is used in a sentence, it will become easier for you to differentiate it from the present participle form of a verb.
Since a gerund often acts as a noun, it takes the place of a noun in a sentence as well, namely as subject, direct object, subject complement, subject of preposition. For example of gerund as a subject: Traveling is a fun experience. Normally, when you make a sentence, you always make sure that the subject of your sentence is noun—a name of person, place, thing, etc. However, like in the example, although a gerund is basically a verb, it acts as a noun; thus, it is grammatically correct to use traveling as a noun in the example.
A gerund can also be used to aptly describe the purpose of something. For example: A vacuum is for cleaning. In this example, the gerund cleaning answers to the question “What is a vacuum for?” in order to accurately describe the purpose of the subject, which is the vacuum in the sentence.
As mentioned earlier, a gerund and the present participle of a verb takes similar forms ending in -ing. And this can be confusing to people trying to learn and master the English language. In order to ensure that you make better and grammatically correct sentences, you need to know the difference between the two. You have to be able to pinpoint their differences in order to avoid masking the mistake of using them wrongly in your sentences.
A gerund is a verb that ends with -ing but functions as a noun. On the other hand, the present participle of a verb also ends in -ing but is like a verb or adjective. Therefore, a gerund can be easily spotted in a sentence since it takes the function of a subject. Whereas the present participle functions as the verb that expresses action or an adjective that describes the subject in a sentence.
When a gerund is used on a sentence, it acts as the noun or subject. Therefore, it can be an object, the object of a preposition, or a subject complement. For example:
On the other hand, when a verb is used in a present participle, it is a part of a continuous verb tense. Here are some examples:
Moreover, the present participle of a verb can also be used as an adjective that modifies a noun or pronoun, or follows the be verb. Listed below are some examples:
Aside from gerunds and present participle, infinitives also cause some confusion. In order to save yourself from committing grammatical mistakes, it is better to get to know the difference between gerunds and infinitives, and how to properly use them in your sentences.
As you know, gerunds are verbs that end with -ing an act as nouns in sentences. On the other hand, infinitive phrases, more commonly referred to as infinitives, are formed with the word to in front of a verb. They share the similarities of being used as subjects in sentences and both can also be used as object of a verb. However, using a gerund or an infinitive will greatly change the meaning of your sentences. Therefore, you should be aware on how to use both of the properly. Although there are similarities, there are also differences between the two, and that is, a gerund can be the object of a preposition; an infinitive cannot.
Some examples of gerunds and infinitives to give you a visual representation of what they look like:
Examples of gerunds
Gerunds are formed with the letters “ing.” For example:
Examples of infinitives
Infinitives are prefaced with the word to. For example:
Although gerunds and infinitives are very different when it comes to how they are structured, some still find it hard to figure out how to properly use both. Knowing how and when to use a gerund and infinitive will greatly improve your grammar and overall communication skills. With that in mind, a gerund is best used in sentences about actions that are real or complete, or that have been completed. For example:
Meanwhile, infinitives are best used in sentences that has actions that are unreal or abstract, or that will occur in the future. Infinitives are also best used to describe the purpose of someone. Remember that an infinitive is formed by preceding a verb with the preposition to (to+verb). Here are some examples:
Gerunds, although they have a unique structure ending in -ing, can still be difficult to understand since present participle and other continuous forms of verbs also end in -ing. However, it is important to note that gerunds are verbs that act as noun in sentence; therefore, they functions as the subject in sentences and not as verbs. On another hand, present participle and other continuous verb forms still act as verbs in sentences. To help you understand the topic better, here are the general rules in using a gerund:
The main characteristic of a gerund is that is acts a noun. Therefore, it automatically is used as the subject of the sentence. This is a gerund’s distinctive characteristic, when you know how to find out what the subject of the sentence is, you will find it easier to figure out if the -ing form of the verb is used as a gerund or just the continuous form of the verb. Here are some examples of gerunds used as the subject of a sentence:
When a verb comes after a word that links nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words within a sentence, a gerund is used. This linking word is called a preposition, and in this rule phrasal verbs are included. Phrasal verbs consist of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Example of phrasal verbs: She has always looked down on me. The example shows no obvious meaning of the individual words themselves, but are interpreted as a whole or group. Here are some examples of gerunds used after a preposition:
The to be verb is considered as the most irregular verb in the English language. However, it is important to note that it is used as a linking verb that shows the existence or the condition of the subject. When using a passive voice in your sentences, it can also be used as an auxiliary verb. Here are some forms the verb to be in English:
Here are some examples of gerunds used after to be verb:
A sentence can either use a gerund or an infinitive, it is only a matter of being able to distinguish how and when to use it appropriately. A sentence using a gerund can be converted in a sentence that uses an infinitive and vice versa; doing this will not change the meaning of the sentence and can still be grammatically correct depending on how you reword it. Therefore, you should be able to know how and when it is most effective to use a gerund or infinitive in your sentence. As a guide, here is a list of rules in using gerunds or infinitives:
As you now know, gerunds function as a noun; therefore, it can be used as the subject of a sentence. For example:
The gerunds in the examples, written in bold letters, are used as a subject of the sentence. These are sentences that you usually use and hear every day. Look at these examples:
These are quotes from William Shakespeare’s literary work. The sentences are formal and poetic. However, if you look at it carefully, the words written in bold letters are infinitives (to + verb) that are used as subjects of each sentence. Therefore, it is possible to use both gerunds and infinitives as subject of a sentence. You only have to pay attention on how they are used to be able to identify how they are used in the sentence.
It is grammatically correct to say, “I love hiking and I decided to hike today.” However, you may be able to determine that the first sentences uses a gerund as an object and the other uses an infinitive as the object. The only difference from how the sentences are composed is the verb that precedes the object. In the gerund example, the verb is in the present tense (love + hiking), while on the second sentence the verb is in the past tense (decided + hike). But that is not always the case, there can be instances where the past tense of the verb is used when a gerund is used, and the present tense of the verb is used when there is an infinitive. Here are some examples:
When you use an adjective in your sentence to describe something, a verb usually follows. It is grammatically correct to use an infinitive immediately after an adjective. When you use gerunds in this case, your sentence will be grammatically incorrect. Here are some examples:
Another to help you remember when to use an infinitive: when an adjective is preceded by the adverb too (too + adjective.) For example:
The same is true when an adjective together with the adverb enough (adjective + enough) is used in a sentence. Here are a few examples:
In order to remember this rule, you will have to study verbs that take an object and an infinitive. But simply put, when the object of a sentence is a noun or pronoun that refers to a person, not a thing or place, etc., an infinitive can only be used after the object. For example: We asked her not to go. In this example, the object of the verb is the pronoun her that is objective form of the pronoun she referring to a person. Here are some examples to help you understand this rule better:
When a sentence uses a preposition to connect nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words within the same sentence, a gerund should follow it. For example: I talked her out of resigning from that job. In this example you can clearly see that the gerund resigning immediately follows the preposition of in the sentence. Regardless if a preposition follows a noun, a pronoun, a verb, or an adjective, a gerund must be used after it.
However, the only exemption to this rule is when the but is used as a preposition in a sentence. In that case, but is an equivalent of the preposition except. If “but” or “except” are used like this, they need to be followed by an infinitive:
A gerund is simply a verb that ends with -ing, but it functions as a noun when used in a sentence. Unlike other words that ends with -ing, a gerund does not function as a verb. If words ending with -ing are used as a verb in the sentence, those are simply the present participle or continuous form of the verb. If you know how to clearly distinguish how words function in sentences, it will be easier for you to know which are gerunds and which are not.
Knowing others aspects and components of the English language will help you make better sentences and can help you develop better overall communication skills. We hope you find this article insightful and informative.