Many of the nouns we use are actually forms of verbs called gerunds. In other words, a gerund is a form of a verb that acts as a noun. In essence, an English gerund always ends in –ing and functions as a noun. That is, it may also serve as any of the following: subject, direct object, indirect object, predicate nominative, appositive, or as the object of a preposition.

Meanwhile, an English gerund phrase is a gerund with modifiers or a complement, all acting together as a noun. This lesson will tackle gerunds, gerund phrases, and how they are used.

Using an English Gerund as the Subject of a Sentence

First thing to remember, every sentence has two main parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is always a noun, a pronoun, or a group of words acting as a noun. Hence, it is what the whole sentence is about. Basically, gerunds can function as the subject of a sentence, too. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Writing by the Egyptians was often recorded on papyrus.
  • Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer.
  • Reading is my favorite hobby.
  • Sewing is what she does for a living.
  • Dancing made her lose weight.

Next, the following examples uses gerund phrases:

  • Drinking from a goblet can make you feel refined.
  • Driving carelessly on an icy road may lead to an accident.
  • Playing the guitar can make one feel like a rock star.
  • Riding a bicycle to work makes Donny happy.
  • Watching romantic comedies helps me pull through a tough day.

Using an English Gerund as the Direct Object

Another essential part of a sentence is its predicate. The predicate is made up of complements, and one of these complements is the direct object. In general, the direct object is a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a transitive verb. An English gerund can function as the direct object, as long as it follows a transitive verb i.e. verbs that direct action towards a person or a thing named within the sentence.

english gerund
A little girl tobogganing down a hill.
  • Despite my injury during our trip, I still enjoyed tobogganing.
  • Of course, Veronica really loves shopping.
  • When Bianca was younger, she practiced kicking.
  • I’m sure the school will address bullying.
  • In the light of the recent events, we must discuss marketing.

Next, the following examples uses gerund phrases:

  • I have never tried playing a guitar.
  • The Romans were able to subdue the attacking Greek army.
  • Rachelle’s roommate finally went dancing at the club.
  • John went shopping for shoes.
  • Mother has started gardening this year.

Using an English Gerund as the Indirect Object

An English gerund can also appear as an indirect object. However, it can only appear with a direct object. To point out, indirect objects name the person or object that something is given to, or done for. A gerund functioning as an indirect object will usually come before the direct object. The following examples use gerunds and gerund phrases as indirect objects.

  • Sheldon’s performance gives dancing a bad name.
  • Cedric introduced Denise to painting.
  • Mary taught us writing.
  • I threw the ball back to the playing kids.

Using an English Gerund as a Predicate Nominative

An English gerund may also function as a predicate nominative. A predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun that appears with a linking verb. Generally, predicate nominatives serve to identify, explain, or rename the subject of the sentence. In addition, linking verb acts as an equal sign between the subject and the predicate nominative (i.e. subject = predicate nominative).

english gerund
Meditating is a form of rest and recreation.
  • Evidently, one energizing activity is exercising.
  • Unquestionably, an effective mode of travelling to school is by walking.
  • My late teacher’s favorite pastime was reading.
  • Surprisingly, a lot of people consider meditating as a form of rest and recreation.
  • Wrestling was an essential skill in ancient Greece and Rome.

Using an English Gerund as an Appositive

Meanwhile, an appositive is a noun or pronoun placed near or beside another noun or pronoun. Appositives serve to identify, rename, or explain the noun or pronoun near it. An English gerund and a gerund phrase may also be used as an appositive.

  • Susan has a new hobby, knitting.
  • I discovered a way to make my life easier, planning.
  • I have finally found the thing I want to do for the rest of my life, writing.
  • If you travel across the city, you will see poor people, struggling to live.

Using an English Gerund as the Object of the Preposition

If an English gerund can function as direct and indirect objects, then it may also function as the object of the preposition. Conversely, a prepositional phrase will contain a preposition (e.g. about, between, beyond, upon, etc.) and its object. A noun or a pronoun found at the end of a prepositional phrase is called the object of a preposition.

The following examples uses gerunds as the object of a preposition.

  • Most ancient people obtained most of their food by hunting.
  • I also like to swim, next to skiing down a mountain.
  • They were asked to present some clearance prior to building the new carpark.
  • Tony looked quite refreshed, despite crying for the whole night over the breakup.
  • We quickly locked the doors and hid ourselves in the bedroom upon calling the police for assistance.
  • Daddy did not allow us to use the car, in spite of asking.
  • Marge has not slept for a week because of studying for the final exams.
  • Prof. Diaz is strongly against texting while inside the school’s premises.

 Verb, Gerund, or Participle?

It is easy to mistake a gerund for a verb or a participle and vice versa, from time to time. In fact, it is one of the things most English language learners find a bit difficult. To simplify their definitions, just remember the following: firstly, verbs are action words that show a condition, or the fact that something exists. Secondly, participles are verbs that act as adjectives. They always modify a noun or a pronoun. Lastly, a gerund is a verb that acts as a noun.

The following examples demonstrate their differences.

Using the verb ‘talk’:

The students were talking to each other, without reservation. (‘Talking’ describes what the students are doing.)

Despite not having a job, Celine still gave her niece a talking doll as a gift. (‘Talking’ describes the doll.)

Indeed, talking seems to be her favorite hobby. (‘Talking’ names her ‘favorite hobby’.)


Using the verb ‘grow’:

As I have said, I found that Reginald was growing some pickles in his yard. (‘Growing’ describes what Reginald was doing.)

Luke is a growing child, so he needs all the sleep he could get. (‘Growing’ describes Luke.)

Without a doubt, many older people spend their time growing plants. (‘Growing’ names an activity many older people do.)


So, do you think you’ve understood the lesson well enough? Then, try to answer this short quiz to find out how well you’ve understood. Don’t forget to share your score with us in the comments.


Some Native American tribes still make their living by farming. In this sentence, ‘farming’ is __________

Correct! Wrong!

'Farming' is a GERUND. It functions as the object of the preposition.

Pelts were used as protection for the freezing winter temperatures. In this sentence, ‘freezing’ is __________

Correct! Wrong!

'Freezing' is a PARTICIPLE. It describes the 'winter temperatures'.

Making a house out of plants and wood was an important survival skill. In this sentence, ‘making’ is __________

Correct! Wrong!

'Making' is a VERB. It describes an important skill.

Arthur and Timmy enjoy fishing in the weekends. In this sentence, ‘fishing’ is __________

Correct! Wrong!

'Fishing' is a GERUND. It functions as the direct object of the verb 'enjoy'.

Jumping on a trampoline unsupervised can be dangerous for children. In this sentence, ‘jumping’ is __________

Correct! Wrong!

'Jumping' is a GERUND. It is part of the gerund phrase 'Jumping on a trampoline unsupervised' and functions as the subject of the sentence.