Gerunds, participles and forms in -ing
Using gerunds and participles in English
►► See also: Consecutive verbs: gerund or infinitive?
1. The different types of word ending in -ing :The English language does not use many grammatical "endings", but some of those it does use have several different functions. The ending -ing is one of them. Words ending in -ing can be gerunds, verbal nouns, or present participles. Distinguishing (= gerund) between these, and using them correctly is not always easy – until you understand these three simple rules.
2. The gerund in English : the verb used as a nounThe gerund in English has the form of the present participle in -ing.
It is the most common form of the verb used as a noun, and can be the subject (examples 1 to 7), or the object of a sentence (8 & 9) , or follow prepositions (10 to 13)
As the examples above show, the gerund is used as if it were a noun, but not in the same way as a noun. In other words, it keeps its verbal qualities. Since it is not used like a noun, it cannot be qualified by an adjective; on the contrary, it keeps some of the essential features that distinguish a verb, notably that it can take a direct object (examples 2, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 above) , and/or be qualified by an adverb (examples 4 ,5 , 12 & 13).
When gerunds are used as verbal complements (second verbs following a first verb), as in examples 8 and 9 above, they can often be rephrased using an infinitive instead of the gerund.
However a few verbs require a gerund, not an infinitive (Examples 14 - 16 above). The most common of these are admit, consider, dislike, deny, enjoy, finish, involve, miss, mind, suggest,
► Compare : uses of the infinitive
3. Verbal nouns: nouns that are derived from verbsThere are a large number of ways of creating a noun from a verb: among the most common of these are words that use the root form of the verb and a noun ending such as -ment (as in achievement), -ance (as in disappearance), -ion (as in confirmation) , or -ing (as in The changing of the guard.) You can see that these -ing forms really are nouns, not verbs, as they can be qualified by adjectives.
4. Areas of possible confusionSometimes it is difficult to decide if a word is a gerund or a verbal noun; and in fact, the quality of the -ing word can change according to context. Look at these examples:
In examples 1 and 2 above, practising is clearly a gerund; in example 2 it is followed by a complement, an instrument. But in example 3 it is preceeded by an adjective regular; so this time it is being used differently, as a verbal noun. We can verify this if we try to add a complement, as in example 4. It is not possible. We cannot say "For musicians, regular practising an instrument is essential.". An -ing word cannot simultaneously be preceeded by an adjective and followed by a direct complement. Other solutions are needed; the ing word must either be used as a gerund, or as a verbal noun, but not both at once. So while example 4 does not work, there are two solutions.
Example 5 uses the word practising as a gerund, as in examples 1 and 2; and as it is a gerund, it is modified by an adverb, regularly.
Finally, example 6 rephrases example 5, but using practising as a verbal noun, not a gerund. We can see that it is a noun, as it is now part of a noun phrase introduced by an article and including an adjective.
5. Present participlesParticiples are adjectives; they can either stand alone, before or after their noun, as the situation requires, or else they can be part of an adjectival phrase.
Participles are often used to make a shortened form of a subordinate clause, as in examples 1 and 3 below,
However, when the participle phrase is a shortened form of a relative clause, it MUST come after the noun (examples 4 & 7).
Present particples are also used to form the progressive forms of present and past tenses (Examples 8 - 10)
Active and passive
Gerunds and participles are most commonly used in the active voice; they can however be easily used in the passive too. Examples 1 - 3 : gerunds, examples 4 & 5 participles.