Read the following sentence:
- Singing is his hobby.
Here singing is a verb ending in -ing. At the same time it is the subject of the verb is, and hence does function as a noun. Such a form of the verb ending in -ing and used as a noun is called a gerund.
Forms of the gerund
The gerund has different forms.
- I like reading. (Present)
- Who doesn’t love being looked at? (Present passive)
- Having slept for ten hours, I felt great. (Present perfect)
- We are happy about having been invited. (Present perfect, passive)
Uses of the gerund
As the subject of a verb
- Smoking is injurious to health.
- Trespassing is prohibited.
- Reading is his favorite activity.
As subject complement
- My mistake was trusting my boyfriend.
- My favorite activity is reading.
As the object of a verb
- I hate packing.
- He loves driving fast cars.
- I enjoy swimming in the sea.
As the object of a preposition
- I am thinking of writing a novel.
- He is fond of seeing pictures.
- The boy was punished for lying.
- He was arrested for stealing a policeman’s helmet.
In apposition to a noun
- His crime, stealing his master’s watch, was considered serious.
- Our goal, collecting a million dollars for the project, can’t be fulfilled easily.
- Hearing a loud noise, the boy woke up.
Here the word hearing qualifies the noun boy as an adjective does. It is formed from the verb hear and has an object – noise. The word hearing, therefore, has the properties of a verb and an adjective and is called aparticiple.
A participle is a word which is partly a verb and partly an adjective.
Note that in the example sentence given above, the phrase ‘hearing a loud noise’ which is introduced by a participle is called a participle phrase.
Study the following examples:
- Knocking at the door, he demanded admission.
- We met a girl carrying a basket full of vegetables.
- The old woman, thinking all was safe, attempted to cross the road.
The italicized words in the above sentences are all examples of what are called present participles. Note that present participles end in -ing and represent an action as going on or incomplete or imperfect.
Present participles formed from transitive verbs, take objects.
Now study the following sentences:
- We saw trees laden with fruits.
- Deceived by his friends, he committed suicide.
- Driven by rain, we took shelter under a tree.
The italicized words in the above sentences are all examples of what are called past participles. The past participle usually ends in -ed, -d, -t, -en or -n. It represents a completed action or state.
Besides the present and past participles, we have what is called a perfect participle which represents an action as completed some time in the past.
- Having rested for a while, we continued our journey.
Participles are often used as simple qualifying adjectives in front of nouns.
- Barking dogs seldom bite.
- A rolling stone gathers no moss.
- His tattered coat needs mending.
- A burnt child dreads fire.
- He is a learned man.
When used as an adjective, the past participle has a passive meaning.
- A burnt child = a child who is burnt.
- A painted doll = a doll which is painted.
When used as an adjective, the present participle has an active meaning.
- A barking dog = a dog which barks
- A rolling stone = a stone which rolls
- Seeing the snake the boy ran away.
Seeing is a form of the verb see and has an object, namely snake. At the same time seeing is also like an adjective because it qualifies the noun boy. It is, therefore, called a verbal adjective or participle.
The participle has two forms: the present participle and the past participle.
The present participle
- The boy cried thinking that he would be punished.
- I see a boy running across the field.
In the examples given above, the words in bold text are examples of present participles. As you can see all of them end in -ing. The present participle represents an action as going on or incomplete.
In the first sentence the action takes place in the past, while in the second sentence the action takes place in the present. Thus, the present participle does not indicate the present time but unfinished action.
The present participle can be used with all the tenses. The time of the action is shown by the finite verbs (cried, see) in the sentence, and not by the participle.
The past participle
Study the following examples.
- Stricken with grief, she killed herself.
- We saw trees laden with fruits.
- Bent with old age the old man tottered along.
In the sentences given above, the words in bold text are examples of past participles. As you can see, the past participle usually ends in -ed, -d, -t or -en. They represent a completed action.
Now look at the following sentence:
- Not having applied in time he could not get the scholarship.
Here ‘having applied’ is not a simple past participle. It is actually a perfect participle which represents an action as having been completed some time in the past.
A verbal noun is a noun derived from a verb. It exhibits all of the properties of ordinary nouns and none of the properties of verbs.
A verbal noun can have plural forms just like a noun. It can also occur with determiners and adjectives. In English, verbal nouns are formed with a variety of suffixes. Examples are given below:
arrive (verb) / arrival (noun)
decide (verb) / decision (noun)
destroy (verb) / destruction (noun)
fly (verb) / flight (noun)
- He sudden arrival surprised me.
- He has not yet announced his decision.
- He boarded a flight to Chicago.
A verbal noun can be identical to its source verb. Examples are: return (verb) / return (noun), attack (verb) / attack (noun).
A verbal noun can be formed with the suffix -ing. Examples are: run (verb) / running (noun), speak (verb) / speaking (noun). Note that a verbal noun should not be confused with a gerund, although many grammarians make this error.
A gerund, though it looks exactly like a verbal noun, has many properties of a verb and can take objects. It can also be modified by an adverb.
- Smoking cigarettes is injurious to health. (Here the -ing form smoking is a gerund and takes the object cigarettes.)
- I like watching movies. (Gerund – watching, object – movies)
A verbal noun, on the other hand, has no verbal properties.
The deliberate bowling of bouncers should be banned. (Here the -ing form bowling is a verbal noun because it exhibits nominal properties: taking determiners, adjectives and prepositional phrases.)
We can use -ing forms (e.g. drinking, singing, smoking, running etc.) not only as verbs, but also like adjectives, adverbs or nouns.
- You are drinking too much these days. (Here the -ing form is part of the present continuous verb.)
- Barking dogs seldom bite. (Here the -ing form is used like an adjective. It modifies the noun dogs.)
- She ran out of the room crying. (Here the -ing form is used like an adverb.)
- Smoking is injurious to health. (Here the -ing form is used like a noun.)
When -ing forms are used as verbs, adjectives or adverbs, they are calledpresent participles. Note that a present participle can refer to the present, past or future.
When -ing forms are used like nouns, they are called gerunds.
Point out the present participles and gerunds in the following sentences.
1. He has ruined his lungs by smoking.
2. Asking questions is easier than answering them.
3. We saw a clown standing on his head.
4. He hates spending money.
5. Waving their hands, the spectators cheered the runners.
6. We are fighting a losing battle.
7. It is freezing cold.
8. We are confident of winning the election.
9. The boy cried thinking that he would be whipped.
10. Can you teach me painting?
1. Smoking – Gerund (object of the preposition by)
2. Asking – Gerund (subject of the verb is)
3. Standing – participle (used like an adjective qualifying the noun clown)
4. Spending – gerund (object of the verb hates)
5. Waving – participle (used like an adjective qualifying the noun spectators)
6. Fighting – participle (used to form the present continuous verb)
7. Freezing – participle (used like an adverb qualifying the adjective cold)
8. Winning – gerund (object of the preposition of)
9. Thinking – Participle (used like an adverb qualifying the verb cried)
10. Painting – gerund (object of the verb teach)