- A look at finite and non-finite verb forms
- What exactly is a gerund?
- Gerund phrases and their functions
- Gerund phrase or participle clause?
- Why do I say gerund phrase, but participle clause?
- Verb patterns - gerund or infinitive after verbs?
- Possessives with gerunds
- Object complements
A look at finite and non-finite verb forms
- He walked into the room. - past simple, 3rd person singular
- You have made a mistake. - present perfect, 2nd person singular
- We are getting married next year. - present continuous, 2nd person plural
Non-finite verb forms (aka verbals)
What exactly is a gerund?
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (OALD)
Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU)
- the gerund is in the -ing form, the same as the present participle.
- gerunds are used like nouns
Why can't we just talk about -ing forms?
Main types of -ing phrases / clauses
- Gerund phrases, which function as nouns, as we have seen.
- Adverbial participle clauses, which function as adverbs, modifying the whole of the main clause.
- Reduced relative clauses, which function as adjectives, modifying a noun (phrase)
What do you mean 'Gerunds are used like nouns'?
- Direct object
- Indirect object
- Subject complement (aka predicate nominative)
- Prepositional object
Exercise 1 - Underline all the words that make up the subject, direct object etc. The first one in each group has been done for you.
|1||Cigarettes are bad for you - Noun|
|2||So-called mild cigarettes are also bad for you - Noun phrase|
|3||Smoking is bad for you - Gerund|
|4||Smoking cigarettes on a regular basis is bad for you - Gerund phrase|
|5||She likes music. - Noun (What does she like? - Music.)|
|6||She likes heavy metal music. - Noun phrase|
|7||She loves singing. - Gerund|
|8||She loves singing in a heavy metal band. - Gerund phrase|
|Indirect object - implies the preposition to. Only used with a few verbs.|
|9||He gave Sandra a book. - Noun (He gave a book to Sandra)|
|10||He gave his sister Sandra some CDs - Noun phrase|
|11||She gives singing her all. - Gerund|
|12||He gave her wonderful singing top marks. - Gerund phrase|
|Subject complement - when a noun / gerund (phrase) follows a linking verb such as to be|
|13||Her greatest love is music - Noun (Her greatest love = music)|
|14||He became a great opera singer - Noun phrase|
|15||Her hobby is singing. - Gerund|
|16||Her hobby is singing in a choir. - Gerund phrase|
|Prepositional object - when a noun / gerund (phrase) follows a preposition|
|17||She devotes a lot of her time to music. - Noun (What to? - to music)|
|18||She has an excellent ear for harmonic nuances. - Noun phrase|
|19||She has a passion for singing. - Gerund|
|20||He has a reputation for singing out of tune. - Gerund phrase|
|Appositive - when a noun / gerund phrase follows immediately after another noun (phrase) and refers back to the same person or thing|
|21||She loves all music but especially her favourite, jazz. - Noun (What is her favourite? - Jazz)|
|22||She has a lot of CDs of her favourite music, late baroque. - Noun phrase|
|23||She spends a lot of time on her hobby, singing. - Gerund|
|24||Her favourite pastime, singing in a choir, takes up a lot of her time. - Gerund phrase|
Exercise 2 - Decide which function the gerund phrases in these sentences are filling.
|1.||His great love is singing sea shanties.|
|2.||He was arrested for singing sea shanties in the middle of the night.|
|3.||He gives singing sea shanties all his spare time.|
|4.||He spends all his spare time on his hobby, singing sea shanties.|
|5.||He loves singing sea shanties.|
|6.||Singing sea shanties makes him really happy.|
Gerund phrase or participle clause?
Exercise 3 - Decide whether the -ing forms in these sentences are part of a gerund phrase (GP) or an adverbial participle clause (PC)
|1.||One of Patricia's favourite occupations is singing in the bath.|
|2.||Singing happily, Patricia got into the bath.|
|3.||Her favourite occupation, singing in the bath, can be a bit annoying at times.|
|4.||But this time he didn't give her singing in the bath a second thought.|
|5.||But having started quite quietly, she started to sing more loudly.|
|6.||She is very good at singing loudly in the bath!|
|7.||Singing so loudly, she didn't hear the doorbell at first.|
|8.||Even though he could make out her singing from outside the flat.|
|9.||Her singing so loudly was beginning to get on his nerves.|
|10.||She stopped for a moment, finally hearing the doorbell.|
|11.||Putting on a dressing gown, she went to open the door.|
Bonus exercise - Look at the sentences you've marked as participle clauses. Enter the number of each sentence having the following functions:
|1.||Two consecutive actions (one after the other)|
|2.||Two simultaneous actions (at the same time)|
|3.||It is important that one thing happens before another|
|4.||The participle clause is the result of something|
|5.||The participle clause is the cause of something|
Why do I say gerund phrase, but participle clause?
- Walking home one evening, he saw a fox.
- While he was walking home one evening, he saw a fox.
- Having left his mobile phone at home, he didn't get her message.
- Because he had left his mobile phone at home, he didn't get her message.
Reduced relative clauses
- Do you know the man standing by the bus stop?
- Do you know the man who is standing by the bus stop?
- The clothes lying round the room made it look very untidy.
- The clothes which were lying round the room made it look very untidy.
Gerunds after go
Verb patterns - gerund or infinitive?
- He really likes swimming in the sea.
- I'd love to come and visit you sometime.
- She doesn't like me smoking in the house.
- She wants me to finish the report today.
- He made me do it
- I saw him run away.
Verbs that can be used with both the gerund and the to infinitive, but with a change of meaning.
Exercise 4 - Complete the sentences with the gerund or to infinitive of the verbs in the box. Each verb is used once (there is one idiom).
|1.||Don't forget me a postcard, will you?|
|2.||Have you tried the concert hall to see if they've got any tickets?|
|3.||He always dreads his bank statement.|
|4.||We tried seats for the concert, but they were all sold out.|
|5.||Did you remember milk?|
|6.||He got a double first at Oxford and went on a brilliant historian.|
|7.||I'm broke, but I can't bear him for any more money.|
|8.||I really can't bear as broke as this.|
|9.||We were quite tired, so we stopped a rest.|
|10.||Everyone just went on what they were doing.|
|11.||I don't remember the door this morning.|
|12.||They stopped so that they could watch the Grand National on TV.|
|13.||I dread what might have happened if the police hadn't arrived.|
|14.||I'll never forget out over Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower.|
Verbs that are only used with one form, the gerund or the to infinitive.
Exercise 5 - Complete the sentences with the gerund or to infinitive of the verbs in the box. Each verb is used once.
|1.||I fancy pasta for supper. How about you?|
|2.||They promised the work by Friday, at the latest.|
|3.||He's agreed us use his car for the weekend.|
|4.||She really enjoys far flung places.|
|5.||Can you imagine your own business?|
|6.||Don't you just adore to music in the bath?|
|7.||I've volunteered out at a charity do next week.|
|8.||He has asked me his best man.|
Other patterns - gerund or infinitive?
There are also some other times when you need to know whether to use the gerund or the to infinitive.
Exercise 6 - Complete the sentences with the gerund or to infinitive of the verbs in the box. Each verb is used once.
|1.||It is said that snacks between meals isn't very healthy.|
|2.||Since school he has had several jobs.|
|3.||Would you prefer back later?|
|4.||When I lost my wallet I didn't know what .|
|5.||It's definitely worth your holiday in advance.|
|6.||It's always important the instructions very carefully.|
|7.||I'm really fed up with so much extra work to do.|
|8.||People think that too much TV is bad for you.|
|9.||I'm really looking forward to my future in-laws.|
|10.||I'd love and see that sculpture exhibition.|
|11.||Can you really afford for all this?|
|12.||They accused me of through a red light.|
Something needs doing - gerunds used with a passive meaning.
- The car needs servicing soon. = to be serviced.
- That shirt needs ironing. = to be ironed.
- The water heater needs seeing to. = to be seen to.
- In case you need reminding, tomorrow's Judy's birthday = to be reminded.
- This form requires filling in. = to be filled in
- One thing deserves mentioning here, ... = to be mentioned
- The dishes want washing. = to be washed
- That bloke wants locking up. = to be locked up (eg: in prison)
- My car always needs something doing to it. (or done).
- He wants his head examining. (or examined).
Possessives with gerunds - 1. The dispute
- She doesn't like me smoking in the house
- Stephen leaving like that really upset her. - proper noun
- There's the small matter of our car being damaged. - common noun
- She quite understood him wanting to leave. - personal pronoun
- She was embarrassed at everyone laughing at her. - impersonal pronoun
- Leaving like that, Stephen really upset her.
- Stephen's behaviour really upset her. - noun + noun
- Stephen's leaving like that really upset her. - noun + gerund phrase
- There's the small matter of our car's being damaged.
- She quite understood his wanting to leave.
- She was embarrassed at everyone's laughing at her.
- Those with prescriptivist leanings tend to say you must use the possessive
- Those with descriptivist leanings tend to say you usually have a choice
Spot the difference - time for a bit of really nerdy grammar
- a gerund phrase following a noun / pronoun, as we have seen above
- a participle clause following a noun / pronoun, acting as an object complement.
- a reduced relative clause
Exercise 7a - Decide whether the following sentences include a gerund phrase (GP), an object complement (OC) or a reduced relative clause (RR). There is one of each. After you've checked, read my explanation.
|1.||Do you see that man talking to Mike? That's my new boyfriend.|
|2.||She saw her new boyfriend talking to Mike, her ex.|
|3.||She wasn't sure she liked him talking to her ex.|
Exercise 7b - Now do the same with these sentences. There is one gerund phrase, one object complement and one reduced relative clause in each set of three sentences.
|1.||My aunt doesn't like me smoking at the dining table.|
|2.||My aunt is speaking to the man smoking at the table.|
|3.||My aunt saw me smoking at the dining table.|
|4.||He was really impressed with the young woman leading the race.|
|5.||He was really impressed with the young woman's leading the race.|
|6.||He noticed a young woman giving water to the runners.|
|7.||Sally found him reading her diary.|
|8.||Sally doesn't like him reading her diary.|
|9.||Sally is the one over there reading her diary|
|10.||Peter hates me talking about him.|
|11.||Peter heard me talking about him.|
|12.||Peter hates talking to that man wearing the red tie.|
A bit more on object complements
- They called their child Patricia.
- She thought herself extremely lucky.
Don't confuse subject complement and object complement
- He was a lawyer.
- He became quite rich.
- He seems quite a rich lawyer.
Gerund phrase or object complement?
- Even though I could make out her singing from outside the flat.
- Even though I could hear her singing from outside the flat.
- It was her singing that I could hear (and I was outside the flat) - Gerund phrase
- I could hear her and that she was singing (and she was outside the flat) - Participle complementing the object - her
Gerund phrase or reduced relative clause?
- He was really impressed with the young woman leading the race.
- He was really impressed with the young woman's leading the race.
- He was really impressed with the young woman who was leading the race.
Possessive with gerund - 2. Current practice
- With a proper name - possessive normally used
David's turning up at her wedding like that was a bit of a surprise
- With things and plurals - not normally used
What is the reason for my foot swelling, I wonder.
Because of the shops closing early, we couldn't but any last minute Christmas presents.
- With personal pronouns - either way possible, depending on context and register. But see note below.
Sarah didn't approve of me/my swearing.
My/Me swearing like that really annoyed Sarah.
- With indefinite pronouns - non-possessive more common.
She didn't approve of anyone telling her what to do
A note about personal pronouns
- My swearing like that really annoyed Sarah.
- Me swearing like that really annoyed Sarah.
Getting even nerdier
Related posts on this blog
Link - Gerunds
Links - Other
Links - possessives with gerunds
- Grammartips.Homestead.com - Possessives precede gerunds - the prescriptivist approach
- Language Log - Possessive with gerund: Tragic loss or good riddance? - the descriptive approach (quite technical, but with a direct link to Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage.)
- Pain in the English - forum type discussion