What Are Gerunds? (with Examples)

A gerund is a noun formed from a verb. All gerunds end -ing. For example:
  • swimming
  • running
  • drinking
Even though a gerund is a noun, a gerund can still take a direct object (like a verb). This is known as a gerund complement. For example:
  • swimming the lake
  • running a mile
  • drinking a beer

More Examples of Gerunds

Below are some more examples of gerunds (shaded) with their roles as nouns explained:
  • Acting is fun.
  • (Gerund as the subject of a sentence)
  • Playing football is fun.
  • (Here, football is the gerund complement of the gerund playing.)
  • Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing. (Sir Ralph Richardson, 1902-1983)
  • (Acting is a gerund as a subject. The gerunds keeping and coughing are objects of prepositions.)
    (In this example, a large group of people is the gerund complement of keeping.)
    • Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. (Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931)
    • (Two gerunds, both subject complements)
    • I love acting. It is so much more real than life. (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900)
    • (A gerund as the direct object of the verb love)
    • You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans. (Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004)
    • (A gerund as the object of a preposition)
    • I like to play blackjack. I'm not addicted to gambling, I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle. (Mitch Hedberg, 1968-2005)
    • (Two gerunds, both objects of prepositions)

    Gerund Phrases

    A gerund will often appear in a gerund phrase. A gerund phrase consists of a gerund, its object, and all modifiers. For example (gerund phrase shaded):
    • Picking rotten apples from the floor is a great way to get stung by a wasp.
    Read more about gerund phrases.

    All Gerunds End -ing but So Do Present Participles

    Even though all gerunds end with the suffix -ing, not every word which ends -ing is a gerund. The other common type of word which ends -ing is the present participle. Like gerunds, present participles are also formed from verbs (making them verbals), but they are not used as nouns. They are used as adjectives or when forming verbs in a progressive tense. For example:
    • Running the tap will clear the air pocket.
    • (This is a gerund.)
    • Can you fix the running tap?
    • (This is a present participle as an adjective.)
    • The tap was running for an hour.
    • (This is a present participle used to form the past progressive tense.)

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