Gerund definition: A gerund is a noun formed from a verb. A gerund will always contain the ending “-ing.”
What is a Gerund?
What are gerunds? Any verb ending in “-ing” and used as a noun is a gerund.
Examples of Gerunds:
- to run/running
- I run every day. / I like running.
In the first sentence, “run” is used as a verb. I am “doing” the action “to run.” In the second sentence, “running” is used as a gerund (noun) and “like” is the verb.
- to sing/singing
- Sara sings. Singing makes Sara happy.
In the first sentence, “sings” is used as a verb. Sara is “doing” the action “to sing.” In the second sentence, “singing” is used as a gerund and “makes” is the verb.
Note: A gerund will always be used as a noun and does not replace the progressive form of the verb.
Functions of Gerunds
Gerunds as Subject
Because a gerund is a noun, it can be the subject of a sentence.
- Singing makes Sarah happy.
Here, “singing” is the noun doing the action “to make.” Because it completes the action, “singing” is the subject of the sentence.
Gerunds as Direct Object
Because a gerund is a noun, it can be the direct object.
- Sarah enjoys singing.
Here, “Sarah” is the subject of the sentence, “enjoys” is the verb, and “singing” is the direct object. Singing is what Sarah enjoys doing.
Gerunds as Indirect Object
Because a gerund is a noun, it can be an indirect object.
- Sarah made singing a priority.
Here, “singing” is a noun following the verb “made.” “Priority” is the direct object of the sentence. “Singing” is a noun acting as an indirect object in the sentence.
Gerund as Subject Complement
Because a gerund is a noun, it can be a subject complement.
- It was singing that made Sarah happy.
Here, “Sarah” is the subject complement of the sentence because it follows the linking verb “was.” “It” is the subject and the gerund “singing” serves as the complement.
Gerund as Object of Preposition
Because a gerund is a noun, it can be the object of a preposition in a prepositional phrase.
- Besides singing, Sarah likes dancing.
Here, “Sarah” is the subject of the sentence, “likes” is the verb and “dancing” is the noun (direct object). However, “besides singing” has been added to the sentence as a prepositional phrase opener. “Singing” is a noun and the object of the preposition “besides.”
Gerunds vs. Present Participles
A gerund is not the same thing as a present participle even though both terms end in “-ing.”
A gerund always acts as a noun.
A present participle is always part of a verb phrase.
- Sarah enjoys
- In this example, “Sarah” is the subject, “enjoys” is the verb, and “singing” is a noun acting as the direct object of the sentence.
- Sarah is singing
- In this example, “is singing” is the verb phrase. “Singing” is the present progressive verb, telling what the subject “Sarah” is doing.
What are Gerund Phrases?
Like a gerund, a gerund phrase functions as a noun.
A gerund phrase is a group of words beginning with a gerund and including any modifiers to that gerund.
- Singing at the concert excited Sarah.
- Sarah enjoyed singing three songs.
The italicized texts in the above examples are the gerund phrases. Each one starts with a gerund and includes modifiers.
The first example includes the adverb modifier “at the concert” telling where the singing is taking place.
The second example includes the adjective modifier “three songs” telling how many songs Sarah enjoyed singing.
Summary: What is a Gerund?
Define gerund: A gerund is a noun that is formed from a verb, ending in “ing.”
When considering gerunds, remember:
- A gerund always ends with “-ing.”
- A gerund is always a noun.
- A gerund can function in any way a noun can function.