You make use of different parts of speech ever day. You might not think about the grammar that you are using, but it is there. But what happens if you would like to know more about grammar, or you are planning to teach English to foreigners and have to know. Suddenly you may not feel so at home with your home language as what you thought – but no need to worry, there is no need to be a walking textbook. This simple guide will give you a reminder of the deeper workings of the language that you use every day. Whether it's for yourself or to teach to someone else, the simple guide will tell you all you need to know about Gerunds.

What is a gerund?

A gerund is the "ing" form of a verb, used as a noun. Since the gerund is used as a noun, it acts as the subject or object of a sentence.


Gerunds as subjects:

Running can be a lot of fun.

Her cooking is terrible.

The dog's barking woke me up.

Gerunds as objects:

I really love running.

I went to the park to do some reading.

Her favourite pastime is singing.

Gerunds can have objects

A gerund is a type of verb, and like a verb, it can have an object. E.g. (objects are underlined)

Smoking cigarettes is bad for your health.

I really hate washing dishes.

He was always talking about faking an illness.

The difference between gerunds and present participles

Gerunds and present participles may look the same (they are both the "ing" form of a verb) but they have different functions. Gerunds are verbs that function as nouns; present participles are verbs that can function as adjective, adverbs or verb phrases. E.g

He enjoys playing cricket. ("Playing" is a gerund, as it functions as a noun and is the object of the sentence – it is the object of the verb "enjoys").

He is playing cricket. ("Playing" is a present participle, as it functions as part of a verb phrase that describes what the boy is doing in relation to the subject "cricket")

Washing machines are useful. ("Washing" is a gerund as "washing machines" is a noun referring to actual washing machines).

Look at him go, he's a washing machine! ("Washing" can be interpreted as a present participle in this instance, as it refers to a "machine that washes", describing the way that the man is performing the task of washing).

Tips for indentifying gerunds

Tip 1

To identify a gerund, look for the main verb of the sentence. Then determine who or what is involved with the verb. If the "who" or "what" is the word ending in "ing" it is a gerund. E.g.

He hates walking alone.

What is the verb of the sentence? Hates.

Who or what is involved with "hates"? He and walking alone.

Is the "ing" word part of who or what is involved with "hates"? Yes.

Therefore walking is a gerund.

Tip 2

If a verb ending in "ing" is placed after a preposition, it is a gerund. E.g.

I am good at driving.

After arriving, I visited my aunt.

She always spoke about leaving for good.

Tip 3

The IT test can often be used to identify gerunds, but it does not work in every case (such as if the "ing" verb comes after "is") so it is best to use the other tips as well even if this test fails. Replace the "ing" verb or the entire "ing" verb phrase with the word "it". The sentence will still make sense if the "ing" word is a gerund. If it is not a gerund the sentence won't make sense.


He hates walking alone.

He hates it. (The phrase containing the "ing" verb has been replaced with "it" and the sentence still makes sense, so "walking" is therefore a gerund).

He was walking alone.

He was it. (The phrase containing the "ing" verb has been replaced with "it" and the sentence does not make sense; therefore "walking" is not a gerund in this case).