Chapter 5-5-2: The Gerund

A gerund is a noun formed from a verb. To make a gerund, you add "-ing" to the verb, just as with a present participle. The fundamental difference is that a gerund is a noun, while a participle is an adjective:


I enjoy running. ("Running" is a noun acting as the direct object of the verb "enjoy.")


Stay away from running water. ("Running" is an adjective modifying the noun "water.")

Following a Preposition

Gerunds can come after a preposition, but not infinitives:

  • It is difficult to eat a tortilla without making a mess. // It is difficult to eat a tortilla without to make a mess.

  • She was criticized for having too few flowers in her house. // She was criticized for to have too few flowers in her house.

  • Gary won the contest by eating the most hot dogs. // Gary won the contest by to eat the most hot dogs.

  • I want to return to working for myself instead of for others.* // I want to return to work for myself instead of for others. *

* The word "to" can be used in a variety of ways, and it can be confusing for learners. Don't mistake the preposition “to” with an infinitive form, or with an auxiliary form such as have to, used to, or going to. Here are some examples:

  • The cat went back to prowling in the streets. [preposition] + [gerund]

  • She used to visit me every week. [auxiliary] + [verb]

  • I love to shop online. [verb] + [infinitive]

Confusion Between Gerunds and Infinitives

English as a second language learners encounter a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between when to use "gerunds" versus "infinitives." You are advised to read Chapter 5-5-3 on infinitives. You should also check out Chapter 5-5-4 to learn about exceptions and problems associated with verbals.

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