gerunds in English 

Last week in the Ginseng English blog, we talked about three functions for -ing verbs: the present progressive, participial adjectives, and gerunds. Today i want to talk in a little more detail about gerunds.

We like to think a verb is a verb, and an adjective is an adjective, and a noun is a noun right? That would make sense. But by now you probably know that English doesn't always make sense.

Form vs. Function

Words can have both a form and a function. For a simple example, think about the word dog. A noun, right? But what about in the sentence Pablo bought some dog food? Here dog is describing the type of food. It works like an adjective. The form is a noun, but the function is an adjective.

So...What exactly is a gerund?

A gerund has the form of an -ing verb, but it functions is like a noun. That is, it does things that a noun usually does. What do nouns usually do? Often they work as subjects, direct objects, or objects of prepositions in sentences. And gerunds can do the same.

Take a look at these examples:

  1. Rowing is hard work!

  2. Clara loves sewing.

  3. I'm thinking about going on vacation.

In the first sentence, rowing is the subject. In the second, sewing  is the direct object of love. And in the third, going is the object of the preposition about . Notice that, even though the form of thinking looks like a gerund, it is not. It is a present progressive (or present continuous) verb. 

So, one more time: a gerund is a verb ending in -ing that works like a noun, as a subject or object in a sentence.  

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