Gerunds

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What are they?

Gerunds are a form of verbs, but they are not actually verbs. Instead, they are a verbal noun. A verbal is a verb that functions as another part of speech. As verbal nouns, gerunds can act as subjects, direct and indirect objects, subject complements and objects of prepositions. All gerunds end with “-ing,” but do not confuse a gerund with the present participle. The present participle acts as a verb or adjective, whereas a gerund acts as a noun. Consider the following examples:

Gerund (noun): Dancing is good exercise. (“Dancing” is a gerund because it is the subject of the sentence.)

Verb: Meredith is dancing. (“Is dancing” is the verb phrase, consisting of “is” as a helping verb and “dancing” as the main verb.)

Adjective: The dancing class is open to all ages. (“Dancing” is an adjective that modifies “class.”)

Acting as the subject, object or complement

Gerunds can act as the subject of the verb, a direct or indirect object of the verb or a subject complement. A subject complement follows a linking verb. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Writing is a viable way to earn an income online. (“Writing” is the subject of the verb “is.”)

Example 2: Shawn’s skills include writing.

In Example 2, “writing” is the direct object of the verb “include.” You know it is a direct object because if you ask, “what do Shawn’s skills include,” the answer is “writing.”

Example 3: Shawn gives writing her full attention.

In Example 3, “writing” is the indirect object of the verb “gives.” Remember that when you ask “Shawn gives what,” the answer is “her full attention,” making it the direct object. The indirect object is what receives the direct object.

Example 4: Shawn’s passion is writing.

In Example 4, “writing” is the subject complement because “is” is a linking verb, and when you replace the linking verb with an equal sign, the sentence still makes sense.

Keep in mind that gerunds sometimes have adjectives that modify them in the same way that nouns do. See the below example:

Example 5: Shawn’s passionate writing is her strength. (“Writing” is the gerund, and “passionate” is an adjective that modifies it.)

Acting as the object of the preposition

When a “-ing” form of a verb is used following a preposition, it is always a gerund. A good way to remember this is that when a gerund follows a preposition, it is easily replaced with another noun. The gerund is the object of the preposition it follows. Make sure not to confuse a gerund with a full infinitive (to working); in the case of the gerund, the use of “to” is as a preposition, with the noun replacement check remaining applicable. Consider the following examples:

Example 6: Karen stopped by her co-worker’s office before leaving.

In Example 6, “leaving” is a gerund and is the object of the preposition “before.” The gerund is easily replaced with a noun; Karen stopped by her co-worker’s office before her exit.)

Example 7: Karen does not object to socializing with her co-workers.

In Example 7, “socializing” is a gerund and is the object of the preposition “to.” A noun is easily inserted to replace the gerund; Karen does not object to lunch with her co-workers.