What Is a Gerund and Why Care?

What is a gerund and why do you need to know? Maybe it would be better to answer the second part of the question first so that you have some motivation to identify gerunds. If you are able to pick the gerund(s) out in your sentence, you will avoid a grammar gaffe that often goes unnoticed even by seasoned editors. Is your curiosity at least somewhat piqued?

Gerunds, also called verbal nouns, are formed when verbs have -ing added to them and are used as nouns.

Examples:
Walking is great exercise.
Hiking up that steep mountain seems impossible.
Talking more about this will not change my mind.

Note that in each of the examples above, the -ing word—the gerund—acted as the subject of the sentence.

Gerunds, like other nouns, may also act as direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of the preposition.

Examples:
We like talking on the phone every night. (direct object)
I give him credit for talking. (object of the preposition for)

It is helpful to recognize gerunds because if a noun or pronoun precedes a gerund, it is usually best to use the possessive form of that noun or pronoun.

Correct: My running ahead bothered him.
Incorrect: Me running ahead bothered him.

Correct: Their separating does not mean they won’t continue to be good parents to their three children.
Incorrect: Them separating does not mean they won’t continue to be good parents to their three children.

Examples:
Alex’s skating was a joy to behold.
Ben’s walking improved once his ankle healed.
The girl’s dancing won her a trip to Hawaii.

 

Pop Quiz

Identify the gerund in each sentence. If there is a noun or pronoun preceding it, make the noun or pronoun possessive.

1. Working efficiently is required in the restaurant business.
2. She won three gold medals for swimming.
3. The devaluing of the dollar continued throughout the summer.
4. Don’t criticize me trying to get his attention.
5. I’d like to know Alicia thinking about the issue.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Working efficiently is required in the restaurant business.
2. She won three gold medals for swimming.
3. The devaluing of the dollar continued throughout the summer.
4. Don’t criticize my trying to get his attention.
5. I’d like to know Alicia’s thinking about the issue.

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