Gerunds.

In November 2007, I traveled to Thailand.

Thailand is an amazingly interesting country in many ways. It is home to floating markets, tiger sanctuaries, beautiful beaches, elephants, etc. It is also notorious for one, erm, peculiarity:

Ladyboys. They are everywhere. They may look like women, but don’t be fooled:

 

What’s this got to do with gerunds?

Good question. A gerund is, simply, a verb in its -ING form used as a noun.

For example, in this sentence:

I am reading a blog

reading,” here, is a VERB (present continuous)

but in this sentence:

Reading is fun

“Reading” is a NOUN (“is” is the verb in this sentence)

I like to think of gerunds as the ladyboy of English grammar: just as a ladyboy LOOKS like a woman, but is actually a man, a gerund looks like a verb, but is actually a noun.

 

Here’s a little example of how I see it, using two sentences:

John is skiing at Whistler“, in which “skiing” is a verb

Skiing Whistler is fun“, in which “skiing” is a gerund (part of the noun phrase “Skiing Whistler”)

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A couple grammatical issues to consider:

Sentences with a single gerund in the subject take the singular form of the verb nearly always.

For example (verb in bold):

– “Watching Kirsten Dunst movies makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty ice cream scoop” (not “make me”, despite “movies” being plural)

 

Two (or more) gerunds in the subject of the sentence will normally take the plural form of the verb:

– Drinking and golfing are both cool

But two or more gerunds can take a singular form of the verb, which implies the actions are done simultaneously:

– Drinking and golfing is fun (i.e. drinking while golfing is fun)

 

The possessive case of a noun or pronoun should be used to modify a gerund:

That doctor’s writing resembles a five year old’s.

Because a gerund is a NOUN, the object pronoun CANNOT precede it. You wouldn’t say “this is me book”; you would say “this is my book”. The rules for gerunds are the same as the rules for nouns (“book”, in the previous examples).

For example:

My accepting your Facebook friend request was diplomatic and doesn’t mean we’re actually friends. (Note: NOT “me accepting your Facebook request”, despite the abundance of similar errors in colloquial speech)

The above example may be the trickiest issue with gerunds. Participles look the exact same as gerunds (an -ING form of a verb), but these are NOT gerunds: participles act as adjectives and can be preceded by an object pronoun, or the plain form of a noun (unlike gerunds). It’s easy to confuse the two, so here’s an example:

I saw Jim singing (singing is a participle describing Jim. I saw Jim; I didn’t see singing. Think of it this way: “I saw Jim unhappy” works the same way. Unhappy is an adjective, not a noun.)

I admired Jim’s singing (“singing” is a gerund, and is the direct object of the verb admire: What did I admire? I admired his singing)

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About Boggleton Drive

I teach things to people and sometimes draw comics.
This entry was posted in Grammar Lessons! and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Gerunds.

  1. LT says:

    It’s not gay if it’s just the gerund performing an action on you, right?

  2. mbaines says:

    Right. Unless the gerund is the subject and you’re the, uh, direct object. In the passive form.

  3. artjen1971 says:

    I love this!!! You can answer all my grammar questions–ok wait–grammer questions or grammatical questions? I’m not sure I want you to read my blog as solidarity like fellow bloggers do. I could be very embarrassed! But if I follow your’s, I am sure mine will improve! 🙂

  4. artjen1971 says:

    I mean as a a show of solidarity!

  5. philbantay says:

    I’ve only seen a few of your entries, but I like how you present these grammar points. (You’re probably thinking, “duh!”)

    Question, is it correct to say this:
    “I watched my nephew play basketball.”? I know that you can say “I saw my nephew playing basketball.” I once corrected someone I was teaching because she said “I watched my nephew playing basketball.” Is it because of the verb? You “see” the state of nouns, therefore you use an adjective/participle, and you “watch” nouns perform actions. Therefore, you need a verb? If so, what grammar topic does this concern?

    Tell me if I just answered my own question, because that would be totally cool! Thanks!

    P.S.
    Another question. How can a verb in the passive form have a direct object? Isn’t that already the subject of the sentence? This is in reference to the comment you made above.

    P.P.S. (You’re probably starting to hate me at this point.)
    If noun=male, verb=female, aux verbs & prepositions=kids. Then, what are adjectives? And are articles oldtimers with canes?

    • Thanks for the comment!

      With regards to question 1, yes, I believe you have answered your own question, and probably more succinctly than I would have. Well done! About question 2, my comment above wasn’t actually relating to grammar at all; it was just a joke (a fairly offside one at that) in regards to the previous comment. Hope there wasn’t too much confusion there. (I do, after all, have to maintain my grammatical integrity with a blog like this, don’t I?) 🙂
      Haha! I’m not sure what the adjective in the second sentence (fun) is supposed to be. Androgynous, I suppose?

  6. Candace says:

    Today, an ESL friend of mine asked if this sentence was correct: “Skiing is my favourite sport.” I said it was correct and it sounds correct, but I can’t think of the grammatical reasoning behind it. Help?

  7. I would like to request a comic explaining how to use gerunds with possessives! I know a lot of people who find that confusing.

  8. I think I leaned something, but it was mostly about ladyboys.

  9. Hello there, There’s no doubt that your blog could possibly be having internet browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping issues.
    I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up!

    Aside from that, wonderful website!

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