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Gerunds are verb forms that function as nouns. They are formed by adding the suffix -ing to the base form of the verb: talking, running, building, developing, and so on.

Gerunds can function as subjects or objects.

Working has never been John’s strong point.I enjoy working at the plant, but I prefer gardening.
Swimming is really great exercise.She always liked knitting and has made a good business out of it.

Although gerunds look like present participles, they function in a different way. Present participles are typically part of a progressive verb phrase and follow the auxiliary verb be. Gerunds are only used as nouns.

She was cooking and cleaning all day long. (PAST PROGRESSIVE)Jogging is always healthy. (SUBJECT)
Tom and Marie have been jogging for over an hour. (PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE)Dad had to do the cooking and cleaning by himself. (DIRECT OBJECT)

In formal English, a noun or pronoun preceding a gerund is in the form of a possessive.

  • We appreciated Tara’s letting us use her phone.
  • I never liked his dating that girl.

In casual English, however, an object form of a noun or pronoun quite commonly precedes a gerund.

  • We appreciated Tara letting us use her phone.
  • I never liked him dating that girl.

Although the direct object + gerund construction is heard with great frequency, the possessive construction is preferred.

  • I was very annoyed by William’s driving so recklessly.
  • We were all so proud of Linda’s winning the race.
  • I couldn’t bear the child’s crying.
  • Julian’s sister did not approve of his drinking.
  • They all hated my singing and especially my dancing.

A word of caution: If a verb form ending in -ing precedes a noun, the verb form is a present participle, because its function in that position is as a modifier of the noun.

  • The other soldiers were distracted by William’s twitching muscles.
  • They all hated his reverberating baritone.

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