Understanding Gerunds

Gerunds are nouns that are made from verbs. To form a gerund, add –ing to the base form of the verb. Gerunds and gerund phrases perform the same functions as nouns. They often refer to actions that have been converted into activities:

1. Gerunds as subjects:

Watching television is my favorite hobby.

2. Gerunds act as objects:

I enjoy going to new places and meeting new people.

3. Gerunds act as complements:

Our favorite activity is travelling abroad. (subject complement)

I don’t have trouble making new friends. (object complement)

4. Many verbs and verb phrases have gerunds as objects: (see list)

You should consider going to see a doctor immediately.

We go hiking every summer in the mountains.

5. Gerunds act as the objects of prepositions, and many preposition combinations are followed by gerunds:

a. verb+preposition:

They insisted on giving us a going-away party.

b. adjective+preposition:

She’s good at doing calculus and trigonometry.

c. expressions:

look forward to meeting you in Munich.

We are looking forward to seeing the play.

6. Gerunds can occur in the simple or past form. We can use a simple gerund

(without a past participle) to make generalizations:

Making friends is a natural process.

Choosing the right college is a difficult decision.

7. Gerunds can occur in the past ( having+ past participle) to show an action that occurred before the action of the main verb in the sentence:

Having been invited to the reception is a fond memory for me.

Using a past gerund emphasizes the difference in time between two actions. In some situations the simple gerund is also possible:

(past) Having met Jane in my first week of college helped me to feel less nervous.

(present) Meeting Jane in the first week of college helped me to feel less nervous.

(present) Going to college is one of the best things I’ve ever done .

(past) Having gone to college is one of the best things I’ve ever done .

8. Sometimes gerunds can occur in the passive form.

In the present form we use being + past participle:

I hate being ignored , but being dumped is worse.

In the past form we use having been + past participle:

Having been dumped was a learning experience for me.

9. To make a gerund negative, just add “not” before it:

Not going to college was a bad idea.

She failed the exam because of not having followed the directions.

I advise not working while you are studying full time.

10. To make gerunds possessive we put a possessive pronoun our noun before it:

Danny’s smoking really bothered his room mates.

Her speaking is better than her writing .

Your singing really needs improvement!

Everybody loves my cooking .

Note: There are many words that end in –ing in English. Be careful not to confuse gerunds with verbs in the progressive form, present participles used as adjectives,

or in adverb phrases.