photo of a blue and orange sign that reads, “Listening. Improving. And Other Gerunds.”

Source: GERUNDS, Freelancers Union, Flickr

Gerunds

A gerund is the noun form of a verb that is created by adding -ing to the verb. Consider the statement “Running is my favorite form of exercise.” The verb run became a noun when I added the suffix -ing. The following are examples of how gerunds may function in a sentence:

The best trick for determining whether a word is a gerund is to replace the word that ends with -ing with the word “it.”

It is my favorite form or exercise.

I really enjoy it.

I hope to improve my health with it.


Gerund Phrases

A photograph of a product manual: Running Microsoft Front Page 2000.

Source: Frankenstein, dwwebber, Flickr

Gerunds are not always one word. Sometimes, they are part of a gerund phrase. A gerund phrase begins with a gerund and includes modifiers and objects. Gerund phrases also function as nouns in three different ways. In the next list, the entire gerund phrase is red.

Again, if you can substitute the word “it” for the phrase and if the sentence makes sense, the phrase is a gerund phrase. For example:

icon for interactive exercise

For each sentence below, decide whether the word or phrase in bold IS or IS NOT a gerund or gerund phrase. Be careful! Just because a word ends in -ing doesn’t mean it is a gerund or gerund phrase. Remember, gerunds are the noun form of a verb. Click on the IS or IS NOT to respond.

  1. Winning is Millie’s biggest motivator.
  2. IS
    Correct! “Winning” is the subject of the sentence.

    IS NOT
    Try again.

  1. This is the most exciting game I have seen all year!
  2. IS
    Try again.

    IS NOT
    Correct! “Exciting”is an adjective in this sentence, not a noun.
  1. Getting to class on time is Larry’s biggest daily challenge.
  2. IS
    Correct! “Getting to class on time” is the subject of the sentence.

    IS NOT
    Try again.

  1. Suzi can’t study in the park without dozing off under a tree.
  2. IS
    Correct! “Dozing off” is the object of the preposition “without, ” and “under a tree” completes the gerund phrase.

    IS NOT
    Try again.

  1. This is most fascinating thing I have ever seen.
  2. IS
    Try again.

    IS NOT
    Correct! “Fascinating” modifies “thing.”


When to Use Gerunds

Gerunds are most useful when you want to make your writing more concise. For example, take a look at this sentence:

With a gerund it reads as follows: