The gerund looks exactly the same as a present participle, but it is useful to understand the difference between the two. The gerund always has the same function as a noun (although it looks like a verb). Some uses of the gerund are covered on this page. A separate page deals with verbs that are followed by the gerund.

The gerund as the subject of the sentence
  • Eating people is wrong.
  • Hunting tigers is dangerous.
  • Flying makes me nervous.
  • Brushing your teeth is important.
  • Smoking causes lung cancer.
The gerund as the complement of the verb 'to be'
  • One of his duties is attending meetings.
  • The hardest thing about learning English is understanding the gerund.
  • One of life's pleasures is having breakfast in bed.
The gerund after prepositions

The gerund must be used when a verb comes after a preposition. This is also true of certain expressions ending in a preposition, for example the expressions in spite of & there's no point in.

  • Can you sneeze without opening your mouth?
  • She is good at painting.
  • She avoided him by walking on the opposite side of the road.
  • We arrived in Madrid after driving all night.
  • My father decided against postponing his trip to Hungary.
  • There's no point in waiting.
  • In spite of missing the train, we arrived on time.
The gerund after phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are composed of a verb + preposition or adverb.

  • When will you give up smoking?
  • She always puts off going to the dentist.
  • He kept on asking for money.
  • Jim ended up buying a new TV after his old one broke.

There are some phrasal verbs that include the word "to" as a preposition for example to look forward to, to take to, to be accustomed to, to get around to, & to be used to. It is important to recognise that the word "to" is a preposition in these cases because it must be followed by a gerund. It is not part of the infinitive form of the verb. You can check whether "to" is a preposition or part of the infinitive. If you can put the pronoun "it" after the word "to" and form a meaningful sentence, then the word "to" is a preposition and must be followed by a gerund.

  • I look forward to hearing from you soon.
  • I look forward to it.
  • I am used to waiting for buses.
  • I am used to it.
  • She didn't really take to studying English.
  • She didn't really take to it.
  • When will you get around to mowing the grass?
  • When will you get around to it?
The gerund in compound nouns

In compound nouns using the gerund, it is clear that the meaning is that of a noun, not of a continuous verb. For example, with the word "swimming pool" it is a pool for swimming in, it is not a pool that is swimming.

  • I am giving Sally a driving lesson.
  • They have a swimming pool in their back yard.
  • I bought some new running shoes.
The gerund after some expressions

The gerund is necessary after the expressions can't help, can't stand, to be worth, & it's no use.

  • She couldn't help falling in love with him.
  • I can't stand being stuck in traffic jams.
  • It's no use trying to escape.
  • It might be worth phoning the station to check the time of the train.