Search This Blog

Saturday, April 7, 2012



A gerund is a noun formed from a verb. It is an exception to the rule we all learned in elementary school: A noun is a person, place or thing. A noun can also be a verb in the -ing form. Every gerund ends in -ing. In other words, it is a verb behaving as if it is a noun.Gerunds name activities, feelings, or states of being. A grouping of words that include a gerund is called a gerund phrase or a noun phrase.

1) All gerunds end in -ing.
      For example: Writing, thinking, laughing, running, hooting, gigging, teaching, and on and on and so forth..

2) An -ing verb is a gerund when it is the subject of a sentence or the object of a preposition or verb. (There are other cases, but why complicate it at this point?)
      For example:
     Gigging is the best way to hunts frogs. (Gigging is the subject of the sentence. The sentence is about gigging.)

     Going gigging takes up most of Papa Pants's free time. (Gigging is the object of the verb, going.)

     Papa Pants invested all of his IRA funds to building frog ponds and buying gear because he is devoted to gigging. (Gigging is the object of the preposition, to.)

3) Beware! An -ing word is not a gerund when it is describing a noun.
      For example: Gigging equipment, depending on the materials and intricacy, can be very expensive. (Gigging describes the word equipment. It tells the reader what kind of equipment it is. Therefore, gigging in this case is NOT a gerund.)

4) If you are not sure if an -ing verb is a gerund in a sentence, try asking three questions:
      Does ____-ing describe a noun? (If the answer is yes, then it is not a gerund.)
      Does ____-ing tell what a noun in the sentence is doing? (If the answer is yes, then it is not a gerund.)

     Is the sentence telling about ____-ing, i.e. is it the subject of the sentence? (Cross out prepositional phrases to find the subject and verb of a sentence. If the answer is yes, then it is a gerund.)

As I said before, gerunds threw me for a loop in 10th grade grammar. And they can be more complicated than what I presented here. And often, when we are being taught about gerunds, those teaching us use grammar jargon to explain. Discipline specific jargon is one of the surest ways to lose a student who has difficulty understanding the concept being taught. 

The goal of this post is to provide a clear explanation of what a gerund is and how to identify one. Did I succeed? Is the word, teaching, in the last paragraph above a gerund? Defend your answer.

Tomorrow: Hyphen

This post is brought to you by the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Check back all through April for daily discussions of writing conventions.


Susan Roebuck said...

Good word for "G" - I'm all in favor of grammar too. That's a good trick to check them too. The participles are fun, especially when they're dangling! There was a famous notice in a bank: "This passbook is required when making a withdrawal" (clever little passbook)

Kelly said...

Stopping by from the A-Z Challenge. I'm a huge fan of grammar, so it's great to find your A-Z series!

Catherine Stine said...

Thanks, I wish my students could read this. I'm over from A to Z. Cheers! Catherine

Sharkbytes said...

This was actually quite helpful. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

William Kendall said...

Now that's an obscure term to come up with!

Inger said...

I'm visiting from the A to Z Challenge and signed up to follow you. Your friend at My First Book referred me to you. I learned English by reading, not listening, which helped a great deal with spelling and some grammar too. I grew up in Sweden and of all the languages we learned, I found English to be the easiest. Go figure! Seriously though, I love the language and I am here to learn.

Inger said...

I did sign up to follow your blog, but I don't see my picture there. Checking back, Google tells me I am now a follower. Oh, well, time will tell, I guess.