THE GERUND (a verb-noun: verb in appearance but noun in action)
The gerund ends in -ing. (e.g. singing, swimming, teaching). It is the present. participial form of a verb employed as a noun in a sentence.
The gerund performs all functions of the noun or noun-equivalent. Hence, it serves as sentence subject, direct object, complement, object of preposition, and appositive.
Special Features of Gerunds
1) Like nouns, the gerund may be modified by an adjective, preceded by either the definite or the indefinite article.
- Reckless driving is dangerous. (Reckless is an adjective, modifying the gerund driving, which is the sentence subject.)
- Joseph received a thorough beating. (thorough is an adjective, modifying beating, the gerundial object of the sentence.)
- We are disturbed by the boy’s incessant crying. (The adjective incessant modifies the gerund crying, the object of the preposition by)
2) Being a verb derivative, the gerund exhibits some features of verbs by taking objects, complements, and modifiers.
- I enjoy studying the Bible. (The gerund phrase – the gerund studying and its object, the Bible – serves as the object of the sentence.)
- Building houses is Obi’s obsession. (The gerund phrase – the gerund building and its object, houses -serves as the subject of the sentence.)
- She annoyed her comforters by crying uncontrollably. (As a noun in function, the gerund crying is the object of the preposition by, but as a verb element, the gerund crying is modified by the adverb uncontrollably.)
3) A possessive noun or pronoun before a gerund may be categorized as an adjectivel (modifying the noun element of the verbal) or as the pseudo subject of the gerund (pointing at the verb element of the gerund).
Nobody likes his sleeping during lectures. (his, a possessive pronoun, may be called an adjectival modifying sleeping or a pseudo subject of the verb-noun sleeping.)
Obi’s accepting the deal was a mistake. (The possessive noun Obi’s modifies the noun element of the gerund accepting, It also tends to act as a pseudo subject of the verb element in the gerund accepting if we consider that “Obi’s accepting … ” implies “Obi’s acceptance of the deal, ” meaning that “Obi accepted the deal.)
4) Like nouns, gerunds may be hyphenated to nouns to form noun-adjectives (e.g. fishing-boat, cooking-pot, walking-stick). But such hyphenated gerunds should not be confused with participles, for gerunds with nouns express purpose or use for which something is meant while participles with nouns describe the nouns to which they are attached.
- I have a walking-stick. (i.e. stick used for walking, not stick that walks).
- We saw your swimming-pool. (i.e. an artificial pool for swimming in.)
Participles (not hyphenated)
- Life is but a walking shadow. (i.e shadow that walks, not shadow used for walking).
- The duck is a swimming bird. (i.e. bird that swims, not bird used for swimming.)
5) A gerund usually heads a gerund( I’ve) phrase, and wherever this occurs, the gerund phrase appears as the sentence subject (preceding a verb), as the direct object/complement (coming after a verb), as an appositive, or as an absolute phrase.
- Praying without ceasing is a good habit. (subject)
- My favourite pastime is visiting the sick. (complement)
- Nneka regretted writing an offensive letter to her husband. (direct object)