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Old Tuesday, January 15, 2008
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Gerunds (-ing)


When a verb ends in -ing, it may be a gerund or a present participle. It is important to understand that they are not the same.

Gerunds are sometimes called "verbal nouns".



When we use a verb in -ing form more like a noun, it is usually a gerund:
  • Fishing is fun.


When we use a verb in -ing form more like a verb or an adjective, it is usually a present participle:
  • Anthony is fishing.
  • I have a boring teacher.







1. Gerunds as Subject, Object or Complement


Try to think of gerunds as verbs in noun form.

Like nouns, gerunds can be the subject, object or complement of a sentence:
  • Smoking costs a lot of money.
  • I don't like writing.
  • My favourite occupation is reading.


But, like a verb, a gerund can also have an object itself. In this case, the whole expression [gerund + object] can be the subject, object or complement of the sentence.

  • Smoking cigarettes costs a lot of money.
  • I don't like writing letters.
  • My favourite occupation is reading detective stories.



Like nouns, we can use gerunds with adjectives (including articles and other determiners):
  • pointless questioning
  • a settling of debts
  • the making of Titanic
  • his drinking of alcohol



But when we use a gerund with an article, it does not usually take a direct object:
  • a settling of debts (not a settling debts)
  • Making "Titanic" was expensive.
  • The making of "Titanic" was expensive.





Quote:
Do you see the difference in these two sentences? In one, "reading" is a gerund (noun). In the other "reading" is a present participle (verb).

My favourite occupation is reading.
My favourite niece is reading.


reading as gerund _____ (noun) Main Verb ______ Complement


My favourite occupation is reading.
My favourite occupation is football.



reading as present participle (verb) Auxiliary _____ Verb ______ Main Verb


My favourite niece is reading.
My favourite niece has finished.





2. Gerunds after Prepositions



This is a good rule. It has no exceptions!

If we want to use a verb after a preposition, it must be a gerund. It is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition. So for example, we say:

I will call you after arriving at the office.
Please have a drink before leaving.
I am looking forward to meeting you.
Do you object to working late?
Tara always dreams about going on holiday.


Notice that you could replace all the above gerunds with "real" nouns:

I will call you after my arrival at the office.
Please have a drink before your departure.
I am looking forward to our lunch.
Do you object to this job?
Tara always dreams about holidays.




Quote:
The above rule has no exceptions! So why is "to" followed by "driving" in 1 and by "drive" in 2?

I am used to driving on the left.
I used to drive on the left.


to as preposition _______ Preposition

I am used to driving on the left.
I am used to animals.



to as infinitive ________ Infinitive

I used to drive on the left
I used to smoke.





3. Gerunds after Certain Verbs


We sometimes use one verb after another verb. Often the second verb is in the infinitive form, for example:

I want to eat.


But sometimes the second verb must be in gerund form, for example:

I dislike eating.



This depends on the first verb. Here is a list of verbs that are usually followed by a verb in gerund form:

admit, appreciate, avoid, carry on, consider, defer, delay, deny, detest, dislike, endure, enjoy, escape, excuse, face, feel like, finish, forgive, give up, can't help, imagine, involve, leave off, mention, mind, miss, postpone, practise, put off, report, resent, risk, can't stand, suggest, understand


Look at these examples:

She is considering having a holiday.
Do you feel like going out?
I can't help falling in love with you.
I can't stand not seeing you.




Quote:
Some verbs can be followed by the gerund form or the infinitive form without a big change in meaning: begin, continue, hate, intend, like, love, prefer, propose, start

I like to play tennis.
I like playing tennis.
It started to rain.
It started raining.






4. Gerunds in Passive Sense

We often use a gerund after the verbs need, require and want. In this case, the gerund has a passive sense.

I have three shirts that need washing. (need to be washed)
This letter requires signing. (needs to be signed)
The house wants repainting. (needs to be repainted)


Quote:
The expression "something wants doing" is British English.






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