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.
|GERUND AS SUBJECT||GERUND AS OBJECT|
|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.|
Distinguishing gerunds from present participles
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.