What Is a Gerund Phrase? (with Examples)

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What Is a Gerund Phrase? (with Examples)

A gerund phrase consists of a gerund, its object, and all modifiers. For example:
  • Eating blackberries without washing them will make you ill.
In the gerund phrase above:
  • Eating is the gerund.
  • (A gerund phrase always starts with the gerund.)
  • The word blackberries is the object of the gerund.
  • (The object of a gerund is also called the gerund complement.)
  • The phrase without washing them is a modifier.
  • (In this case, the modifier is an adverbial phrase.)
Read more about gerunds.

The Parts of a Gerund Phrase

All 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)
A gerund is not like a normal noun because a gerund can take a direct object (just like a verb can). The direct object of a gerund is known as a gerund complement. For example:
  • eating a cake
  • taking a drink
  • painting a fence
These complements (or objects) make up part of the gerund phrase.

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
These modifiers also make up part of the gerund phrase.

More Examples of Gerund Phrases

Below are some more examples of gerund phrases (shaded):
  • Arithmetic is the ability to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. (Mickey Mouse)
  • (gerund in bold)
  • Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. (Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, 1893-1986)
  • Thinking rationally is a realistic assessment of the situation with a view towards rectifying the problem if possible.

Do Not Confuse Gerunds with Present Participles

Not 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 they are not used as nouns. They are used as adjectives or when forming verbs in a progressive tense. For example:
  • Eating a banana an hour before can help.
  • (This is a gerund phrase.)
  • Eating a banana with one hand, he suddenly looked up.
  • (This is a participle phrase; i.e., the participle is being used as an adjective.)

  • 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.)