When communicating with ESL students, I’ve noticed that they avoid using particular grammatical constructions—probably because they don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes, or something. What I’ve paid attention to is that among such omitted constructions was the gerund; so, in order to both help those guys and to remind all of you about some basic rules of the English language, I’ve decided to write this small post dedicated to gerunds.
- So, what is a gerund?
- When are gerunds used most often?
A gerund is a verb ending with -ing, which turns it into a noun. We all know how English-speaking people like to turn nouns into verbs (like, “to google”). Well, a gerund is directly the opposite: a verb that has become a noun. Here are some typical examples of gerunds.
- That reading was not too interesting, so I did not make it to the end of the novel.
- Smoking is bad for your health.
- I don’t feel like going out tonight; actually, my plan was to stay at home and play some video games.
- Hanging out is not what I usually do.
In this regard, ESL students usually ask something like, “Okay, then what’s the function of infinitives?” This is a good question, because infinitives basically do the same as gerunds: they make a verb work like a noun. For example, “To go to a mosque dressed like this would be offensive to Muslim people.” However, gerunds work better as nouns, because they sound more natural, and you are less likely to make a mistake when using one.
There are several typical situations in which you should use a gerund.
- After verbs such as “keep,” “try,” “stop,” “give up,” “hear/watch,” “remember,” and some others.
e.g. I tried to give up smoking so many times that now I am sure I can’t do it.
e.g. Just keep doing what you always do, and you will be fine.
e.g. Maybe try reading some secondary sources if it’s hard for you to read Kant’s original work.
e.g. I heard you talking about the recent experiment. What do you think might have caused such a horrible failure?
e.g. I don’t remember asking you to come to the party, Jill.
- After prepositions such as “for,” “of,” “before,” and so on.
e.g. Thank you for coming—I appreciate your help.
e.g. I am so tired of your constant whining.
e.g. Before fainting, she managed to call 911.
- In some fixed expressions
e.g. It’s no good being busy at work all the time.
- After the following verbs: forget about, think about, talk about, argue about, plan on, insist on, focus on, concentrate on, approve of, feel like, admit to.
I hope these rules will help you use gerunds more effectively. Good luck!
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