When a verb ends in -ing, it may be a gerund or a present participle. It is important to understand that they are not the same.
When we use a verb in -ing form more like a noun, it is usually a gerund:
- Fishing is fun.
When we use a verb in -ing form more like a verb or an adjective, it is usually a present participle:
- Anthony is fishing.
- I have a boring teacher.
Gerunds as Subject, Object or Complement
Try to think of gerunds as verbs in noun form.
Like nouns, gerunds can be the subject, object or complement of a sentence:
- Smoking costs a lot of money.
- I don't like writing.
- My favourite occupation is reading.
But, like a verb, a gerund can also have an object itself. In this case, the whole expression [gerund + object] can be the subject, object or complement of the sentence.
- Smoking cigarettes costs a lot of money.
- I don't like writing letters.
- My favourite occupation is reading detective stories.
Like nouns, we can use gerunds with adjectives (including articles and other determiners):
- pointless questioning
- a settling of debts
- the making of Titanic
- his drinking of alcohol
But when we use a gerund with an article, it does not usually take a direct object:
- a settling of debts (not a settling debts)
- Making "Titanic" was expensive.
- The making of "Titanic" was expensive.
Gerunds after Prepositions
This is a good rule. It has no exceptions!
If we want to use a verb after a preposition, it must be a gerund. It is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition. So for example, we say:
- I will call you after arriving at the office.
- Please have a drink before leaving.
- I am looking forward to meeting you.
- Do you object to working late?
- Tara always dreams about going on holiday.
Notice that you could replace all the above gerunds with "real" nouns:
- I will call you after my arrival at the office.
- Please have a drink before your departure.
- I am looking forward to our lunch.
- Do you object to this job?
- Tara always dreams about holidays.
Gerunds after Certain Verbs
We sometimes use one verb after another verb. Often the second verb is in the infinitive form, for example:
- I want to eat.
But sometimes the second verb must be in gerund form, for example:
- I dislike eating.
This depends on the first verb. Here is a list of verbs that are usually followed by a verb in gerund form:
- admit, appreciate, avoid, carry on, consider, defer, delay, deny, detest, dislike, endure, enjoy, escape, excuse, face, feel like, finish, forgive, give up, can't help, imagine, involve, leave off, mention, mind, miss, postpone, practise, put off, report, resent, risk, can't stand, suggest, understand
Look at these examples:
- She is considering having a holiday.
- Do you feel like going out?
- I can't help falling in love with you.
- I can't stand not seeing you.
Gerunds in Passive Sense
We often use a gerund after the verbs need, require and want. In this case, the gerund has a passive sense.
- I have three shirts that need washing. (need to be washed)
- This letter requires signing. (needs to be signed)
- The house wants repainting. (needs to be repainted)