What Are Gerunds?

A gerund is a verb form that ends in -ing and functions as a noun or object in a sentence or phrase. Though a gerund may look like a verb, it doesn’t behave like one in a sentence. A gerund can act as the subject of a sentence, as the object of a preposition, or as the object of a verb.

When a gerund has objects (modifiers or complements that act together to behave as a noun) it’s known as a gerund phrase. An example of a gerund phrase is seen in the following sentence from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: “Being in the woods is rejuvenating.” Here, the prepositional phrase in the woods describes the gerund being. Together, the words form a gerund phrase (being in the woods) that acts as the subject of the sentence.

Gerunds as Subjects

As demonstrated in the example above, gerunds are often used as the subject of a sentence to talk about activities, behaviors, or opinions. Gerunds are always singular, and when they’re used as the subject of a sentence, the verb that follows always takes the third-person singular form. Here’s an example: “Exercising is good for your body.” Exercising is a gerund that functions as the subject of the sentence. Is, the verb that follows, is in the third-person singular form.

Gerunds as Objects

A gerund can also act as the object of a verb. Here is an example: “She enjoys running daily.” What does she do? She enjoys. What does she enjoy? Running. Here, running is a gerund that functions as the object of the verb enjoys. The gerund phrase in this sentence is “running daily.”

Gerunds can also be used as the object of a preposition. Common prepositions used with gerunds include of, about, to, before, and after. Consider this sentence: “He’s excited about being off work on Friday.” Being is a gerund that functions as the object of the preposition about. Being off work on Friday is the full gerund phrase.

Gerunds as Complements

Gerunds can also function as subject complements. A subject complement is a noun that follows a linking verb. Linking verbs are forms of the verb to be, such as am, is, are, was, and were. Here’s an example of a gerund used as a subject complement: “The group’s main goal is eliminating poverty.” Here, eliminating is a gerund that acts as the complement of the subject goal.

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