Non-Finite Forms of Verbs – The Gerund

The Gerund

Read the following sentence:

Swimming is a good exercise.

The word swimming is formed from the Verb swim by adding -ing. It is therefore like a verb.

The word swimming is the  name of an action and is also the Subject of a sentence. Hence it does the work of a Noun.

The word Swimming is therefore both like a Verb and a Noun. It is therefore a Verb-Noun, and is called a Gerund.

The forms of the Gerunds and of the Present Participles are identical. How to distinguish between the two? Gerunds are Verbal Nouns and Participles are Verbal Adjectives.

He is fond of riding.                                                 (Gerund)

Riding along the road, he saw a lion.                    (Participle)

Since a Gerund is a kind of Noun it may be used :

  1. As the Subject of a Verb; as,
    Sleeping is necessary to health.
  2. As the Object of a Transitive Verb; as,
    I enjoy reading poetry.
  3. Asa Complement; as,
    Seeing is believing.
  4. As an Object of Preposition; as,
    She is fond of dancing.

Exercise 1- Complete the following sentences, by adding a construction with Gerund or an Infinitive (whichever you think correct) :

  1. My sister dislikes_________________________________
  2. He was punished_________________________________
  3. We were prevented_______________________________
  4. The manager objected_____________________________
  5. I do not intend___________________________________
  6. She persisted____________________________________
  7. She is waiting___________________________________
  8. I am surprised___________________________________
  9. I am tired_______________________________________
  10. Would you mind_________________________________
  11. Most children enjoy_______________________________
  12. He went home without____________________________
  13. We were very disappointed_________________________
  14. My parents are not accustomed______________________
  15. The Headmaster is certain__________________________


When a Noun or Pronoun is placed before a Gerund, it must be in the Possessive Case; as,

Incorrect: All depends on Ashok winning a scholarship.

Correct: All depends on Ashok’s winning a scholarship.

Incorrect: They insisted on me starting at once.

Correct: They insisted on my starting at once.

Further examples are :

I hope you will excuse my (not me) cooking late.

They were sorry to hear of our (not us) being ill.

I do not doubt his (not him) being able to do it.

We rejoiced at their (not them) winning the match.

We enjoyed the clown’s (not clown) falling from the roof.

NOTE: In modem English, this rule is not always strictly observed. But the Possessive case cannot be used with the Gerund in the following cases:

  1. When the Noun denotes a lifeless thing; as There is no danger of the wall falling down.

There is no fear of the train coming late.

  1. When the Gerund is in the Passive form’, as,

Do you approve of Mohan being punished?

The Infinitive is changed into a Verbal Noun governed by a Preposition after the Verbs prevent, hinder, think, despair, refrain, prohibit, abstain, etc.           .

I prevented her from dancing [not to dance].

She hindered me from working [not to work].

He thinks of going there [not to go],

I despair of succeeding [not to succeed].

You must refrain from doing that [not to do],

I prohibited him from going  [not to go].

You must abstain from smoking [not to smoke].

Other examples are :

He couldn’t prevent the car from skidding.

She couldn’t help crying.

She prevented my writing to you.

She kept us writing.

She kept me from doing my homework.

Note: How two sentence or questions may be combined by using the Gerund:

May I smoke? Does anybody object?

Does anybody object to my smoking?

Exercise 2: Join the following pairs of sentences by making the first one each case as -ing phrase :

We drove along the road. We saw many beautiful buildings.

= Driving along the road, we saw many beautiful buildings.

  1. She opened her drawer. She found the missing ring.
  2. She ran towards the door. She tripped and fell.
  3. He took the corner too quickly. He crashed into a high wall.
  4. The cashier sat at the counter. He counted the money carefully.
  5. She swept the floor. She found a valuable coin.
  6. His father drove his car along the lonely road. He heard a strange noise.
  7. The old woman held her purse tightly. The old woman got into the bus.
  8. He seized his stick. He rushed out of the house.
  9. The stable door was open. The horse was stolen.
  10. He looked towards the house. He saw his sister in the garden.

Exercise 3: Complete the following sentences, as shown :

Example: Hearing a noise, _________

Answer: Hearing a noise, / turned round.

  1. Opening the door,________________________________
  2. Seizing the stick with both hands,____________________
  3. Seeing the sunshine,_______________________________
  4. Riding his scooter towards town,____________________
  5. Getting into the bus,______________________________
  6. Entering the room,____________________________

Seizing him by the arm,____________________________________

8.    Taking up his gun, ________________________________________

9.    Climbing up the hill,_______________________________________

10. Walking along the road, ____________________________________

►    Exercise 32. Join the following pairs of sentences by using ‘having’ + -en/-ed. The first sentence in each case should be changed into the phrase, as shown :

He received permission from his father. He went to Delhi.

= Having received permissionfrom his father, he went to Delhi.

  1. He had finished eating. He stood up to make a speech.
  2. He had failed in the first attempt. He made no further attempts.
  3. He had worked all day. He lay down to rest.
  4. She passed all her examinations. She went up to the university.
  5. She wrote to her mother. She went out to play with her friends.
  6. He searched in vain for the ring. He decided to go to the police station.
  7. He received no reply to his letter. He decided to send a telegram.
  8. She had played the piano for the whole morning. She didn’t like to go to the concert in the evening.
  9. He bought his ticket. He made his way towards the hall.
  10. He reached the end of the road. He got off his motor-bike and waited.

Exercise 4- Join the following sentences together, using -en/-ed phrases. The first sentence in each case should be changed into the phrase, as shown:

He was defeated in the final match. He decided to retire from the sport. =Defeated in Urn final match, he decided to retire from the sport.

  1. They were beaten by their enemies. They decided to attack again.
  2. The town is situated on the national highway. It is a big centre for trade.
  3. He was disappointed with his new employer. He decided to resign his position.
  4. The horse was terrified by the loud explosion. The horse bolted at full speed.
  5. She was deserted by her husband. She died of a broken heart.
  6. He was rejected by all his friends. He decided to leave the country.
  7. She was respected by everyone. She was elected treasurer and secretary of the club.
  8. He was struck by her beauty. He decided to marry her.
  9. He was dissatisfied with his progress at school. He gave up his studies.
  10. The king was driven out of his country. He decided to become a Sanyasi.

Exercise 5: Rewrite the following sentences, using a Gerund in place of an Infinitive in each case :

  1. Can you teach me to swim?
  2. To see is to believe.
  3. To give is better than to receive.
  4. To ask questions is easier than to answer them.
  5. To praise all alike is to praise none.
  6. To please everybody is to please nobody.
  7. To eat too many sweets is bad for the health.
  8. To find fault with everybody is not desirable.
  9. To do something is better than to do nothing.
  10. To tell a lie is easier than to speak the truth.

Non-Finite Forms of Verbs

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