A gerund is a noun created from a verb. To form a gerund, you add “-ing” to the base form of a verb. You’ll have to remember spelling rules as they apply.
Gerunds, like nouns, can act as subjects and objects.
- Singing is something I do often, but probably not well. [Singing is the subject of the verb is]
- When I read, I enjoy being on my couch with my cats. [Being is the direct object of the verb enjoy]
Be careful not to confuse gerunds with the progressive form or the present participle. Gerunds act as nouns, not verbs or adjectives.
- I am drinking coffee. [Drinking is a verb in the progressive form]
- The Handmaid's Tale is a fascinating book. [Fascinating is the present participle used as an adjective]
Infinitives often take the place of nouns. To form the infinitive, you add “to” before the base form of the verb.
Infinitives, like nouns, can act as subjects and objects.
- To dine out with my husband is something I really enjoy. [The infinitive phrase (in bold) is the subject of the verb is]
- I like to sing. [To sing is the direct object of the verb like]
- Some verbs can only be followed by gerunds. Examples: enjoy, like, keep.
- Some verbs can only be followed by the infinitive. Examples: decide, learn, want.
- Some verbs can be followed by gerunds or infinitives with no major change in meaning. Examples: begin, hate, love, prefer.
- Some verbs are followed by gerunds or infinitives, but with a significant change in meaning. Examples: forget, stop, regret, try.
In my next blog post, I’ll focus on item #4, where there are differences in meaning depending on whether a gerund or infinitive is followed by a common verb, like try.