The gerund looks exactly the same as a present participle, but it is useful to understand the difference between the two. The gerund always has the same function as a noun (although it looks like a verb). Some uses of the gerund are covered on this page.
THE GERUND AS THE SUBJECT OF THE SENTENCE
- Eating people is wrong.
- Hunting tigers is dangerous.
- Flying makes me nervous.
- Brushing your teeth is important.
- Smoking causes lung cancer.
THE GERUND AS THE COMPLEMENT OF THE VERB 'TO BE'
- One of his duties is attending meetings.
- The hardest thing about learning English is understanding the gerund.
- One of life's pleasures is having breakfast in bed.
THE GERUND AFTER PREPOSITIONS
The gerund must be used when a verb comes after a preposition. This is also true of certain expressions ending in a preposition, for example the expressions in spite of & there's no point in.
- Can you sneeze without opening your mouth?
- She is good at painting.
- She avoided him by walking on the opposite side of the road.
- We arrived in Madrid after driving all night.
- My father decided against postponing his trip to Hungary.
- There's no point in waiting.
- In spite of missing the train, we arrived on time.
THE GERUND AFTER PHRASAL VERBS
Phrasal verbs are composed of a verb + preposition or adverb.
- When will you give up smoking?
- She always puts off going to the dentist.
- He kept on asking for money.
- Jim ended up buying a new TV after his old one broke.
There are some phrasal verbs that include the word "to" as a preposition for example to look forward to, to take to, to be accustomed to, to get around to, & to be used to. It is important to recognise that the word "to" is a preposition in these cases because it must be followed by a gerund. It is not part of the infinitive form of the verb. You can check whether "to" is a preposition or part of the infinitive. If you can put the pronoun "it" after the word "to" and form a meaningful sentence, then the word "to" is a preposition and must be followed by a gerund.
- I look forward to hearing from you soon.
- I look forward to it.
- I am used to waiting for buses.
- I am used to it.
- She didn't really take to studying English.
- She didn't really take to it.
- When will you get around to mowing the grass?
- When will you get around to it?
THE GERUND IN COMPOUND NOUNS
In compound nouns using the gerund, it is clear that the meaning is that of a noun, not of a continuous verb. For example, with the word "swimming pool" it is a pool for swimming in, it is not a pool that is swimming.
- I am giving Sally a driving lesson.
- They have a swimming pool in their back yard.
- I bought some new running shoes.
THE GERUND AFTER SOME EXPRESSIONS
The gerund is necessary after the expressions can't help, can't stand, to be worth, & it's no use.
- She couldn't help falling in love with him.
- I can't stand being stuck in traffic jams.
- It's no use trying to escape.
- It might be worth phoning the station to check the time of the train.
VERBS FOLLOWED BY GERUNDS
The gerund is commonly used after quite a few different verbs. The most important of these verbs are shown below. All of these verbs can be followed by nouns instead of gerunds. Remember, gerunds always function as nouns in sentences. Some of these verbs can also be followed by a that-clause. The verbs that require additional usage explanation are displayed as links which lead to more detailed pages.
VERBS WHICH CAN BE FOLLOWED BY NOUNS OR GERUNDS
- I avoid going to the dentist.
- I avoid chocolate.
- I miss taking walks in the morning.
- I miss England.
- I have finished working.
- I have finished the cake.
VERBS WHICH CAN BE FOLLOWED BY NOUNS, GERUNDS, OR A THAT-CLAUSE
- I can't imagine living in that big house.
- I can't imagine a purple unicorn in my yard.
- I can't imagine that he lied on purpose.
- I understand French.
- I understand fishing pretty well.
- I understand that you would prefer to stay.