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Gerund: hints and tips [infographic]

Gerunds are behind some of the most confusing and persistent grammar problems. These verbals are found in many sentences, and they function in many ways, which only adds to the confusion. In order to understand how verbals work, it’s essential to understand their meaning and purpose. The definition of gerund describes these verbals as words that are derived from verbs but function as nouns. Gerunds can be recognized by the ending –ing. Unfortunately, this causes a problem because present participles use the same suffix. This causes a number of mistakes and questions as to which form must be used with different pronouns and subjects. These gerund examples will explain proper pronoun usage and will end the confusion between gerunds, infinitives and participles.


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The simplest gerunds are the names of activities that are put into a noun form. Here’s an example.

Meredith enjoys running, swimming and biking.
One more simple gerund example in a big sentence: Teacher gave a task to review the website about 1 hour ago and said that she doesn’t like waiting.

This type of use doesn’t generally cause a problem. However, it’s important to note that gerunds should not be mixed with infinitives within a list to keep the sentence parallel.

The most important rule of gerunds is that the possessive case must be used with all pronouns and proper nouns. If the objective case is used instead, the gerund becomes a participle, and the meaning of the phrase is altered. Here are two examples of gerunds followed by one example that uses a participle.

The teacher didn’t appreciate his talking.
The dog’s barking infuriated the neighbors.
The boss didn’t like him leaving without notice

Gerunds describe functions and activities in a noun form. On the other hand, infinitives are used when describing a purpose or a reason. The following examples illustrate the difference between gerunds and infinitives.

The soft rag is used for dusting.
Polish is used to shine the wood.

According to this rule, the word “for” should always be paired with a gerund. Using an infinitive with the word “for” is a common mistake. The word “to” is typically used with infinitives.

Gerunds follow the word “by” when describing how something is done. If “with” is used, a simple noun should be used instead. Gerunds are inextricably linked to prepositions. This produces another common mistake. When the word “to” is used as a preposition, an infinitive cannot be used. Here are three examples of gerunds that are paired with prepositions.

Tara is accustomed to painting murals.
After opening the shed, Martin noticed that the tools were missing.
Nicholas is looking forward to meeting the whole group.

Another common mistake occurs when gerunds or participles are orphaned. All present participles must be paired with a subject and a helping verb. This also applies when gerunds or participles are used in introductory phrases. If helping verbs and subjects are omitted, the sentence becomes nonsensical.

There are plenty of exceptions that make gerunds even more complicated. To ensure that the proper verbal is used, always make sure that possessive nouns and pronouns are used with gerunds. Present participles can be scattered around a sentence that uses compound verbs, so it’s important to check for other verbs that disguise themselves. When in doubt, check to see if an infinitive or present participle might be the correct verbal.

If you have any questions, comments or strategies for dealing with gerunds, feel free to share your comments.

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