Gerunds: What Is a Gerund? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on June 8, 2023

If you want to learn more about a gerund and how to use it, stick around. This article will teach you all the basics you need to know to use gerunds properly and efficiently in your sentences.

In short:

  • A gerund is a word that looks like a verb in present participle form but functions as a noun.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What is a Gerund?

Gerunds look like the present participle form of a verb, but they function as nouns. The word is pronounced '[ jer-uhnd ]' or /ˈdʒerənd/ if you're literate in phonetics.

So what's a verb, and what's a noun? Well, a verb is a word that describes an action or state of being. A noun is a person, place, or thing.

Take, for example, the verb 'run.'Using the present participle' running,' you could use this in the present continuous form.' In a sentence, it would look something like this:

I'm running home as we speak.

That is a perfectly respectable sentence. But you could also use the word 'running' as a noun.

For example:

Running is my favourite pastime.

Can you see how in the first sentence, it's describing an action while in the second, it's describing a hobby - therefore, a thing? So the verb becomes a thing. That's the difference between the verb and the gerund - although the two words will be identical, one is a verb, and one is a noun.

How to Use Gerunds

Although gerunds may look like a verb, when making a sentence with a gerund, you should treat it as a noun in terms of your grammar choices, you could add an adjective to our second sentence above since 'running' in that example is a gerund and therefore functions as a noun.

Like this:

Fast running is my favorite pastime.

And just like nouns, gerunds can be replaced by a pronoun. Specifically, the pronoun 'it,' since it should be a third-person singular pronoun, and a gerund can't be a person, so that narrows it down to 'it.'

I'll use the same example to illustrate:

Running is my favorite pastime. It invigorates me.

How to Create a Gerund

In the most basic sense, creating a gerund is a case of taking the root form of the verb and adding -ing. But it doesn't always end up being that simple because - shock, horror - there are exceptions!

  • For verbs that end with -e, remove the -e, then add –ing.
    Achieve → achieving
  • For verbs ending with -ie, change the –ie, to –y, then add –ing.
    Lie → lying
  • For verbs ending with –c, add a -k and then –ing.
    Panic → panicking
  • For verbs ending in consonant + vowel + consonant, double the consonant, then add –ing.
    Call → calling

Gerund Phrases

Let's talk for a minute about gerund phrases. To review, a phrase is a group of words that are part of a sentence but don't convey a complete thought. Put in another way. There are several words in a phrase. Similarly, there are several words in these phrases.

A gerund phrase is made up of several words. Specifically, it contains the gerund and another part of speech: its object or its modifiers. Sometimes both.

Here is an example of a gerund phrase (underlined) in a sentence:

Watering my plants in the morning is an essential part of my routine.

'Watering' is the gerund, 'my plants' is the direct object, and 'in the morning' is the modifier.

Here are some more examples:

She spends most of her spare time reading non-fiction books in bed.

I'm not sure whether challenging him was a good idea.

We'll be spending the afternoon tidying the office.

The second-to-last example has an object but no modifier. The last one has a modifier but no object.

Just like regular gerunds, gerund phrases can take on all the same functions as a noun. Among other things, this means they can be used in combination with phrasal verbs.

Look at the following examples that contain a phrasal verb (in bold) and a gerund (still underlined). The second sentence even contains two phrasal verbs.

I know that my relentless badgering has given you a headache and I plan to make it up to you.

I stand by your decision to keep up your shower-singing habit.

He's run out of yarn so he can't carry on with his knitting.

Different Roles of a Gerund

Because they act as nouns, gerunds can take on many roles. Just like any noun, they can be the sentence's subject, direct object, indirect object, the object of a preposition, subject complement, and object complement.

Gerund as Subject

The subject of a sentence is the thing that performs the action or has the action of the verb done to it. Here's an example of a gerund (underlined) as the subject.

Gardening makes me happy.

Gerund as Direct Object

The direct object of a sentence is the thing that receives the verb's action. The following sentence is an example of a gerund as a direct object.

He doesn't like learning French.

Gerund as Indirect Object

The indirect object is the thing that receives the direct object. It's the answer to the question, "To what or whom is it being done?".

I gave skateboarding a try but it was too hard. 

Gerund as Object of Preposition

The object of a preposition is the word the preposition refers to. It's usually a noun or pronoun, and you'll usually find it right after the preposition.

I'm not sure how I feel about skiing.

Gerund as Subject Complement

A subject complement describes the subject. It follows a linking verb (be, smell, seem, appear, etc.) and gives us more information about the subject.

My favorite pastime is reading.

Gerund as Object Complement

As you might have guessed, an object complement describes the object. It directly follows and provides more information about the direct object.

I sent him a letter apologizing

Examples of a Gerund in a Sentence

Throughout this article, you've seen plenty of examples of gerunds in a sentence. But I thought I'd give you a few more since, in my view, the more examples, the better.

So read on for even more sentences containing gerunds and gerund phrases (underlined).

I'm going to visit my ageing father.

I don't know about you but I find skydiving terrifying.

Moving forward is the only possible solution.

Have you decided whether or not applying for a scholarship is the best forward?

My dog's incessant barking is annoying the neighbors.

Bugging your sister isn't the best pastime.

Preparing the kid's lunch is the first order of the day.

The thing I love most about my job is making coffees.

I do my meal prepping for the week at th weekend.

Drinking wine on an empty stomach is never a good idea.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on gerunds and how to use them. I hope you've found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Gerunds look like verbs but function as nouns.
  • They are formed the same way you form present participles.
  • There are also gerund phrases.
  • Like nouns, gerunds can be the sentence's subject, direct object, indirect object, the object of a preposition, subject complement, and object complement.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the others in our online Grammar Book. It's a free online database of grammar articles where we boil down complex topics into easy-to-grasp articles. Check it out!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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