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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.
- 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.)
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
More Examples of Gerund PhrasesBelow 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 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 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.)
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