We might call ourselves English gurus or grammar gurus but there still are things we don’t know about. There are terms and things in English grammar that are very minute and discrete that one has to pay utmost attention to understand them thoroughly in order to retain them.
Today we will talk about one such grammar concept. Have your heard about the term gerund? Sound a little awkward? Yes. But nothing to worry about. It is a simple grammar term that is not commonly known. And despite the difficulty of the name, the meaning and usage of it is quite easy.
The word gerund originated from its Latin derivative gerere which means ‘do’.
A gerund is any verb in a sentence in English language that ends with –ing. One main characteristic of a gerund which separates it from the rest of the –ing ending verbs is that though being a verb, it functions as a noun in a sentence.
Baking is Sara’s passion.
In the above sentence, baking ends in –ing and is a verb. Notice that though being a verb, it is functioning as a noun in this example thus baking is a gerund for the above sentence.
Quite simple? Yes.
Present Participle Verbs
But there is only a little problem. The gerunds bear quite similar resemblance to the present participle verbs and you would have to be very vigilant to identify a gerund from a present participle verb.
Baking is Sara’s passion and she is baking some cookies right now.
Now consider this example. It consists of the above example plus a clause. Now we know that baking of the first clause is a gerund as it is acting as a noun. What about baking in the second clause? Notice that in the second clause, baking acts not as a noun but as a verb as Sara is baking (doing) cookies. Thus baking in the second clause is the example of present participle.
If you find it confusing to identify between a gerund and a present participle verb, there is a simple rule that you can follow. A gerund acts as a noun so it is either a subject or an object in a sentence. A present participle is however, a verb in a sentence.
The children love playing in the mud.
Test yourself and see if you can identify whether the above sentence contains a gerund or present participle.
Let’s break the sentence into subject, verb and object. Children is the main subject who is doing the action. Love is the verb as it describes the action done. And playing is the object on which the action is being done.
Thus from above perspective, playing is acting as a noun in the above sentence and is the main object so it is a gerund and not present participle.