Gerunds are verbals made by adding “ing” to verbs. Verbals are words made from verbs that function as other parts of speech. Gerunds are derived from verbs but are used as nouns. Therefore they are nouns that inherently convey some sort of action.
Gerunds can fulfill all the same roles in a sentence that a noun can: subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, and object of a preposition. Let’s look at some examples of gerunds in action.
Practicing improves your English skills.
Reading increases your vocabulary.
The shelter appreciated her volunteering.
The student benefited from his tutoring.
Jose gives studying all of his spare time.
Ashley makes tutoring her main priority.
Jane’s favorite way to exercise is running.
Mark’s worst habit is daydreaming.
Objection of a preposition:
The team appreciated him for contributing.
The party distracted her from studying.
Gerunds can also be made negative simply by adding “not” before them.
The best way to study is not cramming.
Julie enjoys not babysitting.
Make sure you don’t confuse gerunds with present participles. Like gerunds, present participles end in “ing.” However, present participles complete progressive verbs or act as modifiers. Here are some of the gerunds we’ve used earlier that can also function as present participles.
Here’s an example using “running” as both a modifier and a gerund:
Modifier: On Sunday, Jane is running in the race.
Gerund: Jane enjoys running on Sundays.
The first sentence still makes sense if you remove “running.” You know Jane is doing something involving the race. Subtract “running” from the second sentence, and you’re left wondering what, exactly, Jane enjoys doing on Sundays.
Here’s an example with “reading” as a present participle and a gerund:
Present participle: Robert lost his reading homework.
Gerund: Robert’s grade suffered because he didn’t turn in the reading.
Take “reading” out of the first sentence, and it’s still clear that Robert lost his homework. Remove it from the second sentence, and you have no idea what Robert didn’t turn in that caused his grade to suffer.
And one more present participle example just for good measure:
Present Participle: Julie always tries to get out of her babysitting duties.
Gerund: Julie always tries to get out of babysitting.
Julie can still try to get out of her “duties,” whether they are “babysitting” or something else. What is Julie trying to get out of in the second sentence? We’d have no clue without the “babysitting” gerund.
Ask yourself the following questions when you’re trying to determine if an “ing” word is a gerund or a present participle/modifier: Can the word stand on its own as a noun, or is it attached to a “to be” verb or another noun? Will an essential piece of information be lost if you remove the word, or will the sentence still make sense without it?