What Is a Gerund Phrase? (with Examples)
Gerund PhraseA gerund phrase is a phrase that consists of a gerund, its object, and any modifiers.
Easy Examples of Gerund PhrasesHere are some easy examples of gerund phrases. (In these examples, the gerund phrases are shaded, and the gerunds are bold.)
- Removing the dressing quickly is the best way. Here are the parts of the gerund phrase:
- gerund: "removing"
- direct object: "the dressing"
- modifier: "quickly"
- I like singing songs in the shower. Here are the parts of the gerund phrase:
- gerund: "singing"
- direct object: "songs"
- modifier: "in the shower"
- Try to serve the soup without dropping the tray this time. Here are the parts of the gerund phrase:
- gerund: "dropping"
- direct object: "the tray"
- modifier: "this time"
- Moving quickly is the key to survival. Here are the parts of the gerund phrase:
- gerund: "moving"
- modifier: "quickly"
- I want to talk to you about buying those magic beans. Here are the parts of the gerund phrase:
- gerund: "buying"
- direct object: "those magic beans"
Let's Dissect a Gerund PhraseLet's dissect two more gerund phrases and make things a little bit more complicated.
- Eating blackberries quickly will make you ill.
- "Eating" is the gerund. (A gerund phrase always starts with the gerund.)
- The word "blackberries" is the direct object of the gerund. (The object of a gerund is also called the gerund complement.)
- "Quickly" is a modifier (an adverb).
- Eating blackberries without washing them will make you ill.
Read more about gerunds.
The Function of Gerund PhrasesLike all nouns, a gerund phrase can function as a subject, an object, or a complement within a sentence. For example:
- Eating blackberries quickly is a bad idea. (Here, the gerund phrase is the subject of the verb "is.")
- She hates waiting for trains. (The gerund phrase is the direct object of the verb "hates.")
- She knew a lot about growing tomatoes in cold climates. (The gerund phrase is the object of the preposition "about.")
- Her biggest mistake was caring too much about the quality of the product. (The gerund phrase is a subject complement that completes the linking verb "was.")
The Parts of a Gerund PhraseAll gerunds end "-ing." They are nouns formed from verbs. For example:
- eating (from the verb "to eat")
- taking (from the verb "to take")
- painting (from the verb "to paint")
- eating a cake
- taking a drink
- painting a fence
Gerunds can also be modified. For example:
- eating a cake quickly
- taking a drink at the watering hole
- painting a fence with the brush his wife bought him
Real-Life Examples of Gerund PhrasesHere are some real-life examples of gerund phrases. (In these examples, the gerund phrases are shaded, and the gerunds are bold.)
- Arithmetic is the ability to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. (Mickey Mouse)
- Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. (Biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi)
- Thinking rationally is a realistic assessment of the situation with a view towards rectifying the problem if possible.
Do Not Confuse Gerunds with Present ParticiplesNot every word which ends "-ing" is a gerund. Present participles also end "-ing." Present participles are also verbals (i.e., words formed from verbs), but - unlike gerunds - they are not used as nouns. They are used as adjectives or to form verbs in a progressive tense.
This is a gerund phrase:
- Eating a banana an hour before can help.
- Eating a banana with one hand, Jack suddenly looked up. (This is a participle phrase. It is functioning as an adjective describing "Jack.")
- The gorilla was eating a banana with one hand. (This is a present participle used to form the past progressive tense.)
- If you are eating the wrong foods in the wrong amounts, all the exercise in the world won't combat the caloric intake. (This is a present participle used to form the present progressive tense.)
Why Should I Care about Gerund Phrases?Here is a great reason to care about gerund phrases.
Gerunds can reduce your word count and improve reading flow.Using normal nouns (i.e., not gerunds) and the prepositions needed to make those nouns often makes a sentence jolty and unnecessarily long. For example:
- The discovery of this new cave will assist with the facilitation of the exploration of the western tunnels. (This sentence has way too many nouns. It's long and stuffy, and it doesn't flow naturally.)
- Discovering this new cave will assist with exploring the western tunnels. (This 11-word version features two gerund phrases. It flows far better than the 18-word version above.)
Read more about how normal nouns can make your writing seem clunky.