Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The gerund

The gerund is a nonfinite verb form that is made by adding the suffix -ing to the root of the verb. The spelling rules are the usual when a suffix is added:
  • Most verbs just add -ing: learn=> learning
  • Verbs ending in silent -e, drop it and then add the suffix: live=> living
  • When the last three letters of a verb are consonant-vowel-consonant and the vowel carries the stress of the word (which always happens in monosyllables), we need to double the last consonant: get=> getting, prefer=> preferring.
  • Verbs ending in -ie drop both letters and add -ying: die=> dying
Although it's a verbal form, the gerund works like a noun, so it can do all the functions that nouns do. In the sentence, the gerund can work as:
  • Subject: Smoking is bad for your health.
  • Object of a preposition: when a verb is placed after a preposition, the gerund form must be used. Paul is interested in collecting stamps.
Stamp collecting by KLMircea
  • Noun modifier. They can modify other nouns, thus forming compound nouns: I've bought new running shoes. 
  • Complement of certain expressions such as  it's no use, it's (not) worth, there's no point in, it's a waste of money/time, to be used to, to get used to. (For the last two expressions see a previous post) Examples: There was no point in waiting, so we left. It's a waste of time watching that film. That car isn't worth repairing. It's no use repairing that car.
It's not worth repairing that car.
Image by Dr. Keats
  • Complement of certain verbs: when one verb is followed by another, the second verb can be an infinitive or a gerund, and that choice depends on the first verb. In this entry, we are going to see a list of the most common verbs followed by the gerund, leaving the ones followed by the infinitive for a future entry. Let's see an example: He suggested going out for dinner. Notice that *He suggested to go out for dinner is not possible. Here is the list of the most common verbs always followed y the gerund:
admit endure can't help put off
appreciate enjoy imagine resent
avoid escape involve resist
consider excuse leave off risk
contemplate fancy mention can't stand
delay feel like mind suggest
deny finish miss understand
detest forgive postpone
dislike give up practise

After the verbs need, require, want, and deserve, the gerund is used with a passive meaning: Your work needs correcting  (to be corrected). My shoes want mending (to be mended).

After certain verbs it's also possible to find a possessive adjective followed by the gerund, in which case the possessive is like the subject of the gerund. Compare:
My dad dislikes working late.
My dad dislikes my working late.
In the first sentence, both verbs refer to "my dad", but in the second sentence, the gerund refers to "me", not "my dad"; what he dislikes is that I work late, not him.
In informal English an object pronoun is used instead of the possessive adjective. So, the example above could be My dad dislikes me working late in a more colloquial style.
A noun in the possessive case, or just a noun in an informal style, is also possible in between verb and gerund: I don't mind Mary's coming with us, or I don't mind Mary coming with us.
This structure is quite similar to that of Verb+Object +Infinitive, in which the object of the verb acts as the subject of the infinitive.
Running out of ideas
Image
Note that not all verbs ending in -ing are gerunds. They can also be present participles, which are more related to adjectives than to nouns. If you want to know more about adjectives ending in -ing and their -ed counterparts, have a look at this blog entry.

Now is the time for you to check what you have learnt by doing these exercises:

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