What is a gerund phrase in English? Gerund phrase examples

Most students face problems with gerund phrases. They, sometimes, get confused between a gerund phrase and a present participle phrase. I find it one of the easiest phrases, if not the easiest, and I will help you master what gerund phrases are.

What is a gerund phrase in English?

Do you know what is a gerund in English? What is a gerund phrase in English grammar? You may or may not, but I bet you use them all the time; you might not be aware of how a gerund or a gerund phrase works.

Gerund phrase definition

A phrase that starts with a gerund and works as a noun in a sentence is called a gerund phrase. A gerund is a word that is formed by adding ‘ing’ at the end of an action verb. Gerund examples- playing, smoking, laughing, running, smoking, teaching, etc.

Note: A gerund phrase is a type of a noun phrase.

Gerund phrase examples

  • Dancing in the rain makes me happy.

    Dancing in the rain is the gerund phrase that’s working as the subject of the sentence. Dancing is the gerund, and in the rain is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the gerund, telling us the place of the action.
  • He loves going to new places.

    Going to new places is the gerund phrase that’s working as the object of the verb love. Going is the gerund here, and to new places is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the gerund, telling us the place of the action.
  • Her favorite time pass is playing with kids.

    In this example, playing with kids is the gerund phrase that’s working as the subject complement, renaming the subject. It is starting with the gerund playing, and with kids is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the gerund.
  • Most people are scared of speaking in front of a crowd.

    Here, speaking in front of a crowd is the gerund phrase that’s working as the object of the preposition ‘of’. It is starting with the gerund speaking, and in front of a crowd is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the gerund, talking about the place of the action.
gerund phrase in English with examples
Gerund phrases with examples

Subject complement: it is a word or a group of words that renames or describes the subject of a sentence.

These were some examples of gerund phrases. Now, let’s understand the different roles it plays in a sentence.

A gerund phrase can play the following roles in a sentence:

  1. The subject of a sentence
  2. An object of a verb
  3. An object of a preposition
  4. A subject complement

Examples of gerund phrases as the subject

  • Talking to my favorite people makes me happy.
  • Listening to a language is one of the best ways to learn it.
  • Teaching English is my passion.
  • Meditating daily helps you to control your mind and live peacefully.
  • Talking to him is not the right thing to do when he is angry.

Examples of gerund phrases as the object of a verb

Gerund phrases that work as the object of a verb are followed by a transitive verb. Here are some examples:

  • I love talking to my favorite people.
  • Rony hates following orders.
  • The thief did not admit stealing the money.
  • Jonny always avoids answering my questions.
  • My students enjoy watching my English lessons.
  • She can’t imagine living without me.

Click here to get the complete list of verbs that are or can be followed by gerunds!

Examples of gerund phrases as the object of a preposition

Gerund phrases that work as the object of a preposition are followed by a preposition. Here are some examples:

  • Most people are scared of facing their fears.
  • I am excited about starting my online classes.
  • We are looking forward to meeting Jenny and her friends.
  • Ashish is amazing at making people laugh.
  • I can’t think about killing a human being.
  • He is not interested in helping the poor.

Examples of gerund phrases as the subject complement

Gerund phrases that work as the subject complement. Here are some examples:

  • His interest is blogging about traveling.
  • My love is writing poems.
  • His biggest mistake was trusting that liar.

How to form a gerund phrase? How to identify a gerund phrase?

A gerund phrase in English has the following components in it:

  1. It starts with a gerund.
  2. It will either have an object or a modifier after the gerund. It can have both sometimes.
  3. The entire phrase works as a noun. (Replace the gerund phrase with a noun to check if it really works as a noun.)
  4. It will always have a singular verb after it when it functions as the subject of a sentence.
  • Teaching unprivileged children is a generous act.

In the above sentence, teaching unprivileged children is the gerund phrase, teaching is the gerund, and unprivileged children is the object of the gerund ‘teaching‘. It has everything a gerund phrase needs to have. We can add a modifier to the gerund phrase if we want to.

  • Teaching unprivileged children free of cost is a generous act.

We have added the modifying phrase free of cost to the gerund phrase. Now, it has a gerund, an object of the gerund, and a modifying phrase.

Just like a noun, it takes the following places in a sentence:

  • The subject of a sentence
  • An object of a verb
  • An object of a preposition
  • A subject complement

Let’s take the previous example and see if it can take these places!

  • Teaching unprivileged children is a generous act.
    (The subject of the sentence)
  • I admire teaching unprivileged children.
    (The object of the verb admire)
  • I am thinking about teaching unprivileged children.
    (The object of the preposition about)
  • What I really love is teaching unprivileged children.
    (The subject complement)

Now, we know a gerund phrase works as a noun and functions as the following: the subject, the object of a verb, the object of a preposition, and the subject complement. One more way to prove that is to replace it with a noun or a pronoun. Well, let’s do that.

  • This is a generous act.
    (The subject of the sentence)
  • I admire Rahul.
    (The object of the verb admire)
  • I am thinking about Rahul.
    (The object of the preposition about)
  • What I love is my dog.
    (The subject complement)

How do you identify a gerund phrase?

Check the following points to identify a gerund phrase:

  • It starts with a gerund and has an object of the gerund and/or a modifier in it.
  • It takes the following positions within a sentence:
    1. Just before the verb or verb phrase (at the beginning of a sentence)
    2. Just after the verb or verb phrase
    3. Just after a preposition.
  • Talking to my favorite people makes me happy.

    The gerund phrase is coming at the beginning of the sentence and just before the main verb makes. It is starting with a gerund talking and has a preposition to and its object my favorite people. When a gerund or a gerund phrase coming at the beginning of a sentence, it works as the subject of the sentence.
  • Jonny always avoids answering my questions.

    Here, the gerund phrase is coming right after the verb avoids and working as its object. It has a gerund answering and the object of the gerund my questions. When it comes right after the verb of a sentence, it either works as its object or as the subject complement.
  • My love is writing poems.

    See, it’s coming right after the verb is, but it is working as the subject complement here.
  • Most people are scared of facing their fears.

    The gerund phrase is coming after the preposition of and working as its object.

Don’t confuse gerund phrases with present participles!

It is very common to confuse gerund phrases with present participle phrases as both of them start with a present participle (V1+ing) and have objects and/or modifiers in them.

But a gerund phrase works as a noun whereas a present participle phrase works as an adjective/adverb in a sentence.

Present participle phrases

  • Listening to his favorite songs, Max finished editing the video.

    (Listening to his favorite songs is the present participle phrase starting with the present participle listening and modifying the noun Max. It is not working as a noun here.)
  • We are looking for a kid wearing a red jacket.

    (Wearing a red jacket is the present participle phrase starting with the present participle wearing and modifying the noun kid. )

Note: a present participle phrase is a reduced adjective clause.

How do we know these are working as an adjective?

An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun and comes right next to it: before or after it. In both these examples, the present participle phrases are modifying a noun and coming right before and after the modifying word. A gerund phrase can’t do that. Let me show you how!

  • Listening to his favorite songs makes him happy. (The subject of the sentence)
  • He loves listening to his favorite songs. (The object of the verb loves)
  • His favorite hobby is listening to his favorite songs. (The subject complement)
  • He is crazy about listening to his favorite songs. (The object of the preposition about)

Are these present participle phrases coming just before or after a noun or a pronoun? No, right? So, it’s a big sign that tells us these are not working as present participle phrases though they have all the elements to act like them. Both gerund phrases and present participle phrases are look-alike but have a different role to play in a sentence.

Watch the video for more details:

Check out Yourdictionary and Grammarmonster for more examples (though unnecessary).

I hope now you know what is a gerund phrase in English, how to form it, and how to use it. Don’t keep the knowledge to yourself; empower others by sharing the post with them. See you in the next class, smart brains!

Related lessons (YouTube):

3 thoughts on “What is a gerund phrase in English? Gerund phrase examples”

  1. Thank you fie your explanation. English is tricked but you go teaching step by step and I like improving my english with your classes. Practice makes perfect.

    Reply

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