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gerund, gerund phrase

A gerund is a type of verbal—a verb form that looks like a verb but does not act as the verb in a sentence.

A gerund ends in -ing and acts as a noun. Like any noun, it can be a subject, the direct object of a verb or the object of a preposition:

  • Swimming is good exercise.  [subject of verb "is"]
  • Aini likes fishing.  [object of verb "likes"]
  • You will gain skill by practising.  [object of preposition "by"]

A gerund phrase is a gerund with attached words. Because a gerund is formed from a verb, it retains some of the properties of a verb, so it can take an object:

  • Swimming laps is good exercise.  [gerund "swimming" + object "laps"]

Like a verb, a gerund can also be modified by an adverb or a prepositional phrase:

  • You will gain skill by practising daily.  [gerund "practising" + adverb "daily"]
  • Aini likes fishing from the dock.  [gerund "fishing" + phrase "from the dock"]

In the above examples, swimming laps, practising daily and fishing from the dock are all gerund phrases.

Subject of a gerund

Although gerund phrases do not contain a verb, they may have their own subject (the person or thing doing the action in the gerund). The subject of a gerund is in the possessive form:

  • Sam appreciated my helping him.
  • Abdul was surprised at Tina’s buying a Venus flytrap.

Other gerund forms

We can put a gerund into the past to show an action completed before another action:

  • Natalie was proud of having won the tournament.  [She won first; then she was proud.]

Also, a gerund can be used in the passive voice:

  • Being introduced to Wayne Gretzky was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Irena was upset at having been passed over for the job.

Note that in all of these gerund forms, the first word still ends in -ing.