How do you make out a gerund from a present participle? Here are some tips that I give my students. May be it can help a few others too.
A Gerund is a verb taking the ‘ing’ form and, functioning essentially as a Noun. A gerund may be followed by more descriptive words such as adjectives, prepositions or objects of prepositions and in such they are called gerund phrases
"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." ---- An old saying
Here the words feeling, expressing, wrapping and giving are examples of gerunds.
Gerunds and Present Participles
Present participles also take the ‘ing’ form. However a present participle functions as a non-finite form of a verb phrase, In contrast, gerunds behave like nouns.
How to differentiate a gerund from a present participle or progressive tense.
Let us take a simple verb sing; its ‘ing’ form is singing. It can be either a present participle or a gerund or can be part of a past or present progressive tense.
1. Progressive tense
When a verb+ing word is preceded by an auxiliary verb, then it becomes a verb, indicating the tense.
Have been singing
Has been singing
Had been singing
Will be singing
2. Present participle
When the verb+ing form or its phrase acts an adjective, modifying a noun, then it is a present participle.
Singing a song, Tom walked along the river.
Shouting abuses, Dick tried to browbeat Harry
By sending a bouquet, the students expressed their love for their teacher.
Here, the ‘ing’ forms modify a noun that is placed next to the comma. These are all participles.
On the contrary, when the ‘ing’ form is followed by a verb or verb phrase then it will be a gerund.
Going by his words will lead to wrong conclusions
Shopping on week- ends is cumbersome because of heavy crowds.
4. A gerund is essentially a noun trying to do an action. We can apply some of the attributes of a noun and see whether the ing form fits within the parameters of the noun.
4A. The first such test is whether the ing form acts as a subject or object.
Singing is a pleasant entertainment
Here singing is the subject of a simple sentence; only a noun or a noun phrase can act as the subject of a clause. Hence in the given context, ‘singing’ is a gerund
4B. See whether the ing form is an object
Tom likes singing
Singing is the object of the clause; it is a gerund
4C. See whether it has any adjective preceding it, especially in the form of a possessive pronoun
Tom feels that his singing is better than many others’s
Here the verb+ing form singing is modified by the possessive pronoun ‘his’. Hence, singing is a gerund.
4D.Sometimes an article is a gerund - marker. See whether the ing verb is preceded by an article such as ‘the’
‘The shopping’ at the Spencer’s is a delight.
4E. See whether the ing word can be replaced by the word it and the sentence still completes the meaning. The pronoun ‘it’ can complete the meaning while a participle can not.
Singing is a good past time
Here we can replace singing with the pronoun it – It is a good past time.
4F... see whether the ing word or the entire ing phrase can be replaced by the word ‘something’
Singing along the river bank, Tom jogged for nearly four miles in one hour
(Singing) Something along the river bank, Tom jogged for nearly four miles in one hour
(Singing along the river bank) Something, Tom jogged for nearly four miles in one hour
When you replace the ‘ing’ word or phrase with something, nothing meaningful turns out. So the phrase starting with singing can not be a gerund.
Now try this.
Signing along the river bank is a refreshing pastime
After replacing the ‘ing’ word with something, the sentence reads as (Signing along the river bank) something is a refreshing pastime
Now you can see there is some meaning in the clause. So the ‘ing’ phrase is a gerund in the context.
“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher” – a Japanese proverb.