Study the following sentence:
- Teaching is my job.
Teaching is a verb ending in –ing. At the same time, it is the subject of the verb is, and hence function as a noun. (Only nouns or noun equivalents can serve as subjects and objects.) Such a form of the verb ending in –ing and used as a noun is called a gerund or a verbal noun.
Uses of the gerund
The gerund has the following uses.
As the subject of a verb
A gerund can be the subject of a verb.
- Smoking is injurious to health.
- Cycling is healthier than driving.
- Trespassing is prohibited.
As subject complement
A gerund can serve as the complement of a subject.
- Our primary need is eradicating poverty.
- His mistake was neglecting his health.
As the object of a verb
A gerund can be the object of a verb.
- I enjoy swimming in the sea.
- He loves driving fast cars.
As the object of a preposition
A gerund can be the object of a preposition.
- He is good at singing.
- The boy was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread.
Gerunds as simple nouns
Many gerunds are now treated as simple nouns. Most of them take articles before them and form plurals with –s.
- Partings are always painful. (Parting is a gerund derived from the verb part.)
- I have had three fillings.
- The lightning struck the building.
Certain verbs and adjectives are followed by a preposition. We cannot use an infinitive after them. Instead, we use an –ing form.
- I am thinking of visiting my grandparents. (NOT I am thinking of to visit my grandparents.)
- We were prevented from entering the hall. (NOT We were prevented from to enter the hall.)
- You must refrain from making such remarks. (NOT You must refrain from to make such remarks.)
Other verbs and adjectives that are usually followed by a preposition are: interested in, keen on, absent from, desirous of, despair of, fond of, confident of, insist on, stop from, abstain from and prohibit from.
A gerund is a form of a verb used as a noun. Gerunds always end in
-ing. They always act as nouns. Gerunds can function as subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, objects of a preposition, predicate nominatives, and appositives. Here are some examples of gerunds:
- Trespassing is prohibited. (The gerund ‘trespassing’ is the subject.)
- I love driving a fast car. (The gerund ‘driving’ is the object of the verb ‘love’.)
- His crime, stealing a policeman’s helmet, was considered serious. (The gerund ‘stealing’ is an appositive in this sentence.)
Like a participle, a gerund can be part of a phrase. Don’t confuse gerunds and present participles, because both end in -ing. A gerund functions only as a noun, while a participle functions only as an adjective.
- Collecting stamps is a hobby of his.
- I hate the idea of getting old.
- The thought of failing never entered his head.
- Our object, collecting a million dollars for the project, cannot be easily fulfilled.