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The Gerund

7. Introduction

7.1. The Gerund is formed by adding the suffix –ing to the stem of a verb, and coincides in form with Participle I.

7.2. The Gerund has nominal and verbal characteristics. Its nominal properties are as follows:

a)     The Gerund can perform the functions of a subject, object and predicative.

Digging is hard work.

b)    The Gerund can be preceded by a preposition.

What’s wrong with borrowing a little money?

c)     Like a noun the Gerund can be modified by a noun in the possessive case or a possessive pronoun.

It’s a bit inconvenient your coming in late.

The verbal characteristics of the Gerund are as follows:

a)     The  Gerund can take a direct object.

No one likes washing a car.

b)    The Gerund can be modified by an adverb.

She burst out crying bitterly.

c)     The Gerund has analytical forms expressing tense and voice distinctions.

He’s regretting now having come.

8. Forms of the Gerund

         In modern English, the gerund has the following forms. 






being played


having played

having been played


8.1. The Indefinite Gerund denotes an action simultaneous with that expressed by the finite verb; it can refer to the past, present or future.

         It was nice meeting you.

The Perfect gerund denotes an action prior to that of the finite verb.

         They deny having spoken with him.

However, the Indefinite gerund can also denote a prior action:

a)     after the verbs remember, forget, excuse, forgive, thank.

Sarah remembered visiting the place before.

b)    after the prepositions after, on/upon, without.

On turning the corner, I saw a most unexpected sight. (=As soon as I had turned…)

         8.2. The Active Gerund is used when the subject of the action is at the same time the doer of the action expressed by the gerund.

                   They left without playing the match.

         The Passive Gerund is used when the subject is not the doer of the action but a person or a thing the action is directed at.

                   I’m annoyed at having been made a fool of.

         The Active Gerund is used after need, want, require, deserve and the adjective worth with a passive meaning.

                   These windows need painting. (=need to be painted) 

9. Functions of the Gerund

         In a sentence, the gerund is used in different syntactic functions:


                   I think walking in the country is a lovely way to spend a day.


                   What I suffer from is not being able to sleep.

Part of a compound modal or aspect predicate

                   I can’t help feeling depressed sometimes.

Direct Object

                   I enjoy travelling.

         The gerund is used after certain verbs, such as:

admit                   detest                            justify                            resist          resent

advise                            dislike                  mention               risk

allow                    endure                  mind                    save

anticipate             enjoy                    miss                     suggest

appreciate            escape                  permit                  tolerate

avoid                   excuse                  practise                deny

confess                 face                      put off                 imagine

delay                    forget                            recommend          involve

         The Gerund as a direct object is also used after the adjective worth.

                   The book is evidently worth reading.

Prepositional object

         In this function the gerund is used after such verbs as:

admit to               depend on

(dis)agree with     insist on

aim at                            object to

apologize for        pay for

(dis)approve        of     put up with

believe in             rely on

benefit from                  resort to

care for                succeed in

confess to            think of

count on              vote for

worry about

                   Jake is thinking of selling his motor-bike.

         The gerund can also follow a verb+object+preposition.

The article accuses the government of concealing important information.

         We find the gerund after such verbs as:

accuse of              deter from            prevent from        stop from

blame for             discourage from   punish for            thank for

charge with          excuse for/from    remind of             use for

congratulate on    forgive for            tell about             warn about


         The gerund is used as a prepositional object after certain adjectives, such as:

afraid of               capable of            grateful for           sorry for

amazed at            content with                  guilty of               surprised at

angry about/at     dependent on       happy about/with         used to

annoyed about/at different from/to  interested in                  worried about

anxious about      excited about/at   keen on                wrong with

ashamed of          famous for           nervous of           satisfied with

aware of               fed up with          pleased about/with

bad at                            fond of                 ready for

bored with           good at                responsible for

                   My husband isn’t very good at cooking.

         Part of a Complex Object

         The Gerund can be part of a complex object when used as the verbal element of a predicative construction (see 10).

                   I hate people asking me personal questions.



         In this function the Gerund is always preceded by a preposition.

                   I noticed Jeff’s success in getting the price down.

         Some other nouns can also take a preposition+gerund:

aim of/in              excitement about/at       possibility of

amazement at       fear of                           problem of/in

anger about/at      gratitude for                           prospect of

anxiety about       idea of                           reason for

apology for          job of                                      surprise at

belief in                objection to                            task of

danger of/in                   pleasure of/ in               work of

effect of                point of/ in                    worry about


         Adverbial modifier

a) adverbial modifier of time

         In this function, the gerund is used with the prepositions after, before, on/upon, in, at.

                  Please, switch off the lights before leaving.

b) adverbial modifier of manner with the prepositions by, in.

                   She succeeded in business by being completely single-minded.

c) adverbial modifier of attendant circumstances with the preposition without.

                   The man left the building without being seen.

d) adverbial modifier of purpose with the preposition for.

                   These pages may be used for making notes on.

e) adverbial modifier of condition with the preposition without.

                   The boys could not leave the house without asking for permission.

f) adverbial modifier of cause with the prepositions for, for fear of, owing to.

                   I feel ever so much better for having taken a holiday.

g) adverbial modifier of concession with the prepositions in spite of, despite.

                   I still feel tired in spite of having slept eight hours. 

10. Gerundial Predicative Constructions

         10.1. The Gerund can form predicative constructions, i.e. constructions in which the gerund is in predicate relation to the nominal element expressed by a noun or a pronoun. The noun/pronoun is the “subject” or “object” of the gerund, different from that of the finite verb.

Compare: I remember mentioning the fact. (= I remember that I mentioned the fact)

I remember your mentioning the fact. (= I remember that you mentioned it)

         10.2. The nominal element of the Construction can be expressed in different ways.

         a)  If it denotes a living being it may be expressed by a noun in the Common case, a noun in the Genetive case, a possessive pronoun, or a personal pronoun in the Objective case.

                   Do you mind me/my sitting here?

         The possessive is more formal and less usual in everyday speech. But the possessive is more likely to be used at the beginning of a sentence.

                   Richard’s coming back is wonderful news.

         When the nominal element consists of two nouns or a noun modified by an attribute in post position, only the Common case is used.

                   I’m looking forward to Mary and Emely staying with us.

         b) If the nominal element denotes a lifeless object, it is expressed by a noun in the Common case or a possessive pronoun.

                   I said something of my watch being slow.

The nominal element can be expressed by a pronoun that has no case distinctions.

         I insist on both of you coming together.

10.3. Predicative constructions with the gerund are used in a sentence in different syntactic functions.


         It’s no use his/him apologizing – I’ll never forgive him.


         I’m all for his representing our firm at the conference.

Direct Complex Object

         Do you mind my smoking?

Prepositional Complex Object

                   Sam was pleased about his son winning a prize.


                   I hate the idea of strangers looking after my baby.

         Adverbial Modifier

                   Despite your remembering me, I forgot.

11. The Gerund and the Verbal Noun

         Like the Gerund, the verbal noun has the suffix –ing.

         The main points of difference between them are as follows.

a) The gerund is a verbal, thus                                     The verbal noun may be used

    it is not used with an article.                                    with an article or a demonstrative

       Driving makes her tired.                               pronoun.

   (= driving in general)                                         Nancy likes her job, but the driving makes her tired.

                                                                             This arguing gets on my nerves.

b) The gerund has no plural                                 The verbal noun may be used in

   form.                                                                 the plural.

      Building is a skilled job.                                    The hostages suffered several


                                                                              The square was surrounded by

                                                                               tall buildings.

c) The gerund can take a direct                                    The verbal noun cannot take a

    object.                                                             direct object; it can be modified

       Crossing the road here is                             by an of-phrase.

      dangerous.                                                       I was disturbed by the ringing of

                                                                              the phone.

d) The gerund may be modified                                   The verbal noun may be modified

    by an adverb.                                                  by an adjective.

       I look forward to seeing  you soon.                    My boss was fined for   dangerous driving.

12. The Infinitive and the Gerund

         The Infinitive and the Gerund mostly have similar functions in the sentence, as shown in the table below, but the patterns of their uses do not always coincide.


         In pre-position, the gerund is much more usual than the infinitive.

                   Choosing the colour won’t be easy.

                The infinitive is more usual in sentences with the introductory it.

                   It won’t be easy to choose the right colour.

                Only the gerund is used after there is no.

                   There was no guessing his intentions.


         In this function, the infinitive is more common than the gerund and is used mostly after the link verb to be, while the gerund may be used after other link verbs, such as mean.

                The important part is helping people live normal lives.

         Only the gerund is used after the prepositions like, for, against.

                   I didn’t feel like explaining anything.

 Part of a predicative

         This function is performed only by the Infinitive.

                   The apples were good to eat.

Part of a Compound Verbal Predicate

         The use of the infinitive and the gerund is lexically dependent in this function – they are used after quite definite verbs.

         As part of a compound verbal modal predicate only the infinitive is used:

a) after the verbs seem, appear, turn out, prove (see 6.2.)

                   The letter seems to have been mislaid.

b) after the modal verbs can, must, may, should, ought, dare, will, shall.

                   They must be having a party next door.

         After need an infinitive is usually used.

                   We need to leave at eight.

         A gerund after need has a passive meaning.

                   The typewriter needs cleaning.

         The verb to intend is followed by an infinitive or a gerund with no difference in meaning.

                   We intend to take/taking an immediate action.

         To be going to is followed only by the infinitive.

         Can’t help may be followed by a gerund or but + a bare infinitive.

                   John couldn’t help but laugh/ help laughing.

         Can’t stand is followed by a gerund.

                   I can’t stand sitting around doing nothing.

         A part of a compound aspect predicate

Begin, start, continue, cease can be followed by an infinitive or a gerund; there is no important difference.

                   She began playing/ to play the guitar when she was six.

         After continuous forms, an infinitive is preferred.

                   I’m beginning to learn karate.

         An infinitive is also preferred with stative verbs like understand, know, realize.

                   I slowly began to understand how she left.

         After the verbs keep, burst out, give up, quit, finish only a gerund can be used.

                   She’s given up smoking.

         Stop is followed by a gerund if it is a compound aspect predicate. An infinitive after stop is an adverbial modifier of purpose.

                   I stopped running.

                   I stopped to rest. (= in order to rest)

         Go on + Gerund means “continue”.

                   She went on talking about her illness until we all fell asleep.

         Go on + Infinitive refers to a change of activity.

She stopped talking about her illness and went on to tell us about her divorce.

Direct Object

         Some verbs can be followed by either an infinitive or a gerund with no change in meaning, e.g. bother, propose.

         Advise, allow, encourage, permit, forbid, recommend, require when followed by an object or in passive forms take an infinitive.

         In active forms,if there is no object,these verbs take a gerund.

                   I wouldn’t advise taking the car – there’s nowhere to park.

                   I wouldn’t advise you to take the car.

Some verbs are followed by either an infinitive or a gerund with a change in meaning.

1) remember/forget + gerund refers to the past – to things one did.

                   I still remember buying my first bicycle.

    remember/forget + infinitive refers forward in time to thing that one still has or still had to do at the moment.

                   You must remember to fetch Mr. Lewis from the station.

           2) regret+gerund refers back to the past – to something one is sorry one did.

                   I regret leaving school at 14 – it was a big mistake.

    regret + infinitive is used mostly in announcements of bad news.

                   We regret to say that  we are unable to help you.

3) try + gerund is used to talk about making an experiment – doing something to see what will happen .

I tried writing her letters, sending her flowers, but she still wouldn’t speak to me.

    Try + infinitive/gerund is used to talk about making an effort to do something difficult.

                   I tried to change/changing the wheel, but my hands were too cold.

4) mean in the sense of “involve, have as a result” is followed by a gerund.

                   If you want to pass the exam it’ll mean studying hard.

   Mean in the sense of “intend” is followed by an infinitive.

                   I don’t think she means to get married.

5) learn, teach (and other verbs with similar meanings) are followed by a gerund when we refer to lessons or subjects of study.

                   She goes to college to learn typing.

         An infinitive is used when we talk about the result of the study-about successfully learning a skill.

                   I taught myself to type.

6) like, love, hate, prefer + infinitive/gerund with little difference in meaning.

         In BrE, like+gerund is used mostly to talk about enjoyment, and like+infinitive mostly to talk about choices and habits. In AmE, like+infinitive is common in both senses.

                   I like climbing mountains (more typical in BrE).

                   I like to climb mountains (more typical in AmE).

                   When I’m pouring tea I like to put the milk in first. (BrE/AmE)

     After would like/love/hate/prefer infinitives are most often used.

                   I’d like to tell you something.

         Compare:   Do you like dancing? (Do you enjoy it?)

                            Would you like to dance (Do you want to do it now?)

     Hate + infinitive means “to hate what one is about to do “.

                   I hate to interrupt, but I must talk to you.

Hate + gerund means “feel sorry for what one is doing”.

                   I hate making you feel uncomfortable.

7) want + infinitive means “wish”; want + gerund means “need”.

                   Jack wants to borrow your typewriter, but it wants cleaning.

Prepositional Object

         This function is performed only by the gerund after certain verbs and adjectives (See 9).

a)     After some verbs and adjectives we can use either a preposition+gerund or an infinitive, with no difference in meaning.

I’m proud of having won / to have won.

The people voted for joining/to join the European Community.

         Some of these verbs and adjectives are:

                   aim at doing / to do                ready for

                   amazed at                               satisfied with

                   angry at                                  thankful for

                   annoyed at                              surprised at

                   content with                                     vote for

                   grateful for                             plan on

                   pay for                                   long for

                   hesitate about

b)    But sometimes the infinitive has a different meaning from the preposition + gerund.

1)    Agree with + gerund means to think that something is right, agree + infinitive means to make a decision.

We all agreed to meet the next day.

I don’t agree with cutting down trees.

2)    We use tell about and remind of to report statements and thoughts.

I told you about losing my credit card, didn’t I?

                   But tell/remind smb to do smth reports an order/reminder.

                            I told you to keep that card safe.

                            Why didn’t you remind me to bring a compass?

3)    Keen on/interested in usually means a general interest, but keen / interested + infinitive means a wish to do a particular thing.

Simon is keen on/interested in cycling.

Simon is keen to go on this trip.

Simon is interested to hear about your cycle tour.

4)    afraid + infinitive can only express unwillingness caused by fear. Afraid of + gerund can express fear about what might happen.

Many old people are afraid to cross the road in case they have an accident.

Many old people are afraid of having an accident when they cross the road.

5)    anxious+infifnitive means “wanting to do”; anxious about + gerund means “worried about”.

I’m anxious to get this business settled quickly.

Rodney was anxious about making a mistake.

6)    ashamed of + gerund expresses shame about smth.; ashamed + infinitive expresses unwillingness caused by shame.

I feel rather ashamed of having told Lucy a lie.

Roy is ashamed to admit his fault.

7)    sorry about/for + gerund or sorry to have done expresses an apology for an earlier action. Sorry to do expresses an apology for a present action.

I’m sorry for causing / to have caused all that trouble yesterday.

Sorry to disturb you, but can I have a word?

                        Sorry to do also expresses regret about what we say or hear.

                            I’ sorry to have to say this, but your work is far from satisfactory.

8)    Certain/sure of is used to refer to the feeling of the person one is talking about.

You seem very sure of passing the exam.

Certain/sure +infinitive refers to the speaker’s/writer’s own feelings.

         The repairs are sure to cost more than you think.

c)     To can be a particle or a preposition.

I hope to see you soon. (to-infinitive)

I look forward to seeing you soon. (prep. +gerund)

         We use a gerund, but not an infinitive, with the verbs admit to, confess to, face up to, look forward to, object to, resort to, take to,; the adjectives opposed to, resined to, etc.; the preposition in addition to.

         Used to + infinitive expresses a past habit or state.

I used to come here when I was a child. (at one period I came here regularly but then I stopped).

                   I used to have a bicycle, but I sold it.

         Be used to + gerund means “accustomed to”.

                   We are used to living in the country now.


         The infinitive is used to modify indefinite and negative pronouns, ordinal numerals, class nouns, the adjectives last and next. The infinitive expresses necessity or possibility.

         In this function, the infinitive is also used after abstract nouns:

         ability                            demand                plan

         agreement            desire                            preparation

         ambition              determination      promise

         anxiety                 eagerness             proposal

         arrangement                  effort                    refusal

         choice                  failure                  reluctance

         decision               need                     request

         offer                     scheme                 willingness


                   There will be an opportunity to inspect the plans.

                   Our decision to oppose his scheme was the right one.

         But some abstract nouns are modified by a preposition + gerund, not an infinitive. (see 9)

                   There’s no hope of getting there in time.

                   I hate the idea of getting old.

         After some nouns we can use either a gerund or an infinitive with no or little difference in meaning: chance, opportunity, way, attempt, intention.

                   We have a chance of making/to make a profit.

         After indefinite pronouns for+gerund can be used to explain the purpose of an object or material.

                   I need something for killing flies.

         This pattern is used mostly to talk in general about types of objects and material. The infinitive is normally used after the noun or pronoun to talk about an individual’s purpose in using a particular object.

                   I must find something to kill that fly.

Adverbial modifier

         In this function the gerund is always preceded by a preposition.

a)     Both the infinitive and the gerund can be used as an adverbial modifier of purpose, but the gerund implies a general purpose, a general use of something; we use an infinitive to talk about a specific need or action.

I need glasses for reading. (in general)

I need my glasses to read this small print.

         After use there can be either an infinitive or for + gerund.

                   We use a ruler for measuring / to measure things.

b)    Both the infinitive and without + gerund are used as an adverbial modifier of attendant circumstances.

The use of the infinitive in this function is rather formal. It also implies a result.

    Laura came home to find her house on fire.(=…came and found)

c)     The other types of adverbial modifiers expressed by the Gerund and the Infinitive do not overlap.


Only the infinitive is used in this function.

         I’m tired of sightseeing, to tell the truth.

22.03.2016; 23:38
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