Gerunds Participles and Infinitives and Their Usage
A gerund can be defined as a verbal that can be considered as a noun. In most cases, gerunds end with –ing. Being a verbal, it means that a gerund is formed from a verb and its purpose in a sentence is to describe an action or express a state of being. Based on the fact that a gerund also acts as a noun, its position in a sentence is one that could have been taken by a noun. This means that a gerund can be the subject, subject complement, direct object or the object of a preposition.
Functions of Gerunds
Gerunds function as nouns in the sentence and therefore can take up the following roles:
- The subject of the sentence
- Getting to class early in the winter is the hardest thing I can do
Getting is the gerund
To class is the direct object of the action expressed by the gerund
In the winter is the prepositional phrase that stands in as the adverb
- Being the king made David feel powerful.
Being is the gerund
The king stands as the subject complement for David following the state of being mentioned in the gerund.
- Direct object of a verb
A gerund can also function as the direct object in a sentence. Let’s look at it in the following sentence:
- I hope you will enjoy my offering you this chance
Breaking down this sentence we have:
My as the possessive pronoun adjective whose function is to modify the gerund
Offering is the gerund
You stand as the indirect object expressing the action in the gerund
This opportunity is the direct object that expresses the action in the gerund.
- Subject complement
Peter’s ideal move is walking away from his friends
In this case, we have ‘walking away from’ as the gerund and ‘his friends’ as the direct object showing the action expressed in the gerund.
- Object of preposition
A gerund can also be used as the object of a particular preposition. Let’s look at the following example to understand the same.
- You might lose your job for the simple reason of faking an illness to skip work
In this sentence, the gerund is ‘faking.’ The direct object showing the action expressed in the gerund is ‘an illness.’ To skip work is an infinite phrase used as the adverb. The preposition, in this case, is for and faking is its object.
Gerunds usually end with –ing. A gerund can be simple or perfect, active or passive.
In active form “writing.’
In passive form ‘being written.’
In active form ‘having written.’
In passive form ‘having been written.’
In formatting a simple gerund, there are usually some changes in the spelling. Look at the following:
- Study – studying
- Relax – relaxing
- Answer – answering
- Write – writing
- Read – reading
- Grow – growing
- Argue – arguing (we have omitted the final ‘e’)
- Agree- agreeing
- Put – putting (if the verb ends in the form consonant vowel consonant, the final consonant is double except for the case of w, x, and y)
- Lie – lying (we have replaced the ‘i.e.’ with ‘y’)
When writing in the negative, we usually start with ‘not’ then the gerund.
- I enjoygoing to work
- I don’t enjoygoing to work
It should be noted that the gerund has no tense and therefore it does not show the period during which the action referred to took place. However, the gerund can give an indication of whether the time of action is earlier or same as that of the verb within the main clause.
A simple gerund is one that shows the action is taking place at the same time as the verb in the main clause.
I hate fighting with you (fighting happens simultaneously with hate i.e. same time. I hate when we fight.
Peter requested calling off the strike. (Calling happens the same time with requested. Peter requested that we should call off the strike.)
Apart from that, a simple gerund can also be used to show the time before the action in the main clause took place.
He regretted not calming her down when she was mad. (Not calming happened before regretted. He regretted that he hadn’t calmed her down when she was mad.)
I can’t remember calling her stupid. (Calling refers to a time before the main verb; don’t remember. I don’t remember that I called her stupid.)
In contrast with the simple gerund, the perfect gerund is used to show a time before the action in the main clause. However, note that the perfect gerund is used only in cases where the action shown by the gerund is deemed not obvious based on the context.
She denied being coned (being is the simple gerund and it refers to the same time as coned. She denied that she was conned.)
She denied having been coned (Here ‘having been’ is the perfect gerund and it refers to a time earlier than ‘denied’. She denied that she had been coned)
In a case where the action is very clear that it happened at an earlier time, then we use a simple gerund.
She denied going home earlier. (She denied that she had gone home earlier.)
We also have passive forms of gerunds.
I don’t like being tried. (This is an example of a passive simple gerund.)
She complained of having been falsely accused. (This is a passive perfect gerund).
Examples of Gerunds
In this section, we are going to provide a number of examples of gerunds based on their functions in a sentence.
- Examplesof gerunds as the subject of a sentence
- Poachingis a wrong practice.
- Eatingapples is very important.
- Flyingscares me.
- Washingyour hands before eating is important.
- Smokingcause lung cancer.
- Examples of gerunds as complements of the verb
- The best thing in life is havingmoney in the bank
- The hardest thing about Mathematics is understandingthe formula
- Among his duties is travelingplaces
- Examples of gerunds used after prepositions
In the event that a verb is used after a preposition, then a gerund must be used. This should also be the case when using expressions that end in prepositions e.g in spite of
- In spite of beingthe last person, he still managed to perform.
- There is no point in cooking
- We reached home after walkingone hundred miles
- Can you cough without holdingyour chin?
- He is good at marketing
- She won over him by thinkingsmart
- My mother decided against cooking for dinner.
- Examples of gerunds used after phrasal verbs
A phrasal verb is made up of a verb and a preposition or an adverb.
- Peter ended upclaiming $200 for his $500 phone
- People who always keep on askingfor funds are disturbing
- To give up drinkingis possible
- He always puts off walkingfrom home to work
There are some phrasal verbs which usually contains ‘to’ as a preposition. Some of these phrasal verbs are to take to, to look forward to, to get around to, to be accustomed to and to be used to. In this case, you need to treat the word ‘to’ as a preposition and therefore it must be followed by a gerund.
You need to understand that to in this case is not an infinitive form of a verb. In order to identify whether to is a part of the infinitive or a preposition you can perform this simple test: Add the pronoun ‘it’ just after the word ‘to’ and try to check if a meaningful sentence is formed. If the sentence is meaningful, then to in that case is a preposition and must be therefore followed by a gerund.
- I am used to playingthe bass guitar
- I look forward to hearingfrom you
- I am accustomed to workinginto late night
- Can you get aroundto cleaning the house?
Note that if you add the pronoun ‘it’ after the word ‘to’, all the sentences are still meaningful. Examples of gerunds in compound nouns. In this case, the meaning should be the one from the noun and not the continuous verb.
- This hotel has a very nice swimming pool
- My new running shoesare very comfortable
- This holiday I went for a driving lesson
- Examples of gerunds after some expressions
There are some expressions that should be followed by a gerund. For example, can’t stand, can’t help, it’s no use, and to be worth.
- It is of no use tryingto fake it
- It might be worth askingthe details about this project
- I can’t stand beinglied to.
With this guide you are certain to maneuver through mastering of gerunds participles and infinitives.
See this for other useful information on the definition and use of infinitive.