Examples of Gerunds?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by anniemac, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. anniemac Junior Member

    england - english
    Hello all,

    I am trying to understand Gerunds. I can understand their meaning in some simple sentences, for instance in "I like swimming", but some more complicated sentences I am not sure whether the -ing word is a gerund or not.

    My understanding is that if the -ing form of the verb is situated in a sentence such that it becomes the object or subject of a main verb that is already present, then it is a gerund. So, this is the principle I am going by.

    Consider the -ing words in the following sentences, can anyone confirm whether they are gerunds or not? I have put after each sentence whether I think they are or not, but I am not sure if I am right!

    1. A friend of mine was accused of stealing food
    (I think this is a gerund as it is the object of the verb accused?)

    2. My wife is out shopping right now
    (I think this is not a gerund as shopping is the main verb?)

    3. When Sarah is playing music she is happy
    (I think this is not a gerund, playing is the verb?)

    4.Can you feel my heart beating?
    (I think here beating is not a gerund but an adjective describing the action of the heart?, even though 'heart beating' is the object of the verb 'feel')

    5. James was washing up when I saw him yesterday
    (I think here washing is the main verb and not a gerund?)

    6. I regret spending so much money on shoes
    (I think spending is a gerund as it is the object of the verb 'regret')

    7. The grass wants cutting this weekend
    (I think cutting is a gerund as it is the object of the verb 'wants')

    Any ideas on whether I am thinking along the right lines, or am I totally misunderstanding Gerunds?

    Thank you so much
    :) :) :) :)
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you are totally misunderstanding Gerunds we'd better get on a Gerund course together. That all looks good to me ... though I'm a bit worried about (4).
    Can you feel my heart beating?
    Oops - that's "Do you feel my heart beating?"
    Anyway, is that the same as "Can you feel my beating heart"? - beating as an adjective?
  3. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
  4. profesora de ingles New Member

    English USA
    Hi Anniemac,

    A gerund is a verb form ending in -ing which acts as a noun.

    I always taught my students to identify a gerund this way:
    Insert the words "the act of" in front of the -ing word. Does the sentence still make sense? If so, you have a gerund.

    Look at number 6. "I regret the act of spending so much money on shoes." Gerund!

    It also works for numbers 1 and 7 (Maybe 7 sounds a little awkward, but in American English, grass doesn't want anything. We would use the infinitive, "The grass needs to be cut.")

    In contrast, for number five you couldn't say, "James was the act of washing up when I saw him yesterday."

    With all due respect to languageGuy, and with a sincere openness to changing my position if evidence warrants it...

    In number 4, I think that "beating" fits the defintion of a participle rather than a gerund. A participle is a verb form that can be used as an adjective. Can you feel my heart? What kind of heart? Beating heart. Beating is used as an adjective, so it would be a participle, rather than a gerund, I think. It is also possible that in the UK, the distinction is not made between the two.

    I really can't imagine an application other than the loathed grammar test in which making the distinction between a participle and a gerund is of any consequence whatsoever. Certainly we can speak well and write well without splitting hairs over such trifles, but if it means points on a test, perhaps this distinction will be important to you.
  5. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    profesora offers an interesting interpretation of number 4, but I still like the gerund interpretation better. I see 'heart' as the adjective, not 'beating'.

    My heart beating is increasing. -- Beating is a gerund. 'beating' is the subect, not heart.

    My heart beating is in a healthy range. -- Gerund again.

    Can you feel the act of my heart beating? -- Still seems like a gerund to me.
  6. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    For the first two here, I would use "heart beat", not "heart beating." To me, "My heart beating is in a healthy range" sounds very odd. It sounds like someone is giving your heart a beating.

    As for the third one, I believe the test the profesora offered would lead you to test it this way: "Can you feel my heart the act of beating?" When tested in the same fashion as the others, it doesn't make sense.
  7. anniemac Junior Member

    england - english
    thanks so much for all your suggestions, I am glad that I am thinking along the correct lines.

    I am however, still a little unsure about the "beating" example - I can see both sides of the argument.

    I can see that 'heart beating' is the thing you are feeling, so I can see that it could be a gerund as the object of the verb 'feel'.
    But I still can't help thinking that 'beating' is an adjective in this example? Using the above example that has been suggested to test if it is a gerund - "Can you feel my heart the act of beating", doesn't make sense so I am inclined to think it is not a gerund and infact an adjective.

    But, as I said I can see both sides, so I'm still unsure about this one. The debate goes on.....
  8. pioussoul Banned

    4. Can you feel my heart beating? This is really a tricky and intriguing instance.

    At first glance, little doubt the "beating" in sentence 4. is a present participle because we can rewrite it as the following:

    4. Can you feel my heart (which is) beating.

    Nevertheless, on second thought, as languageGuy views it, it can be considered a gerund.

    4. Can you feel my heart beating?
    5. What kind of beating can you feel?
    6. I can feel the (kind of) beating of my heart.
  9. MissFit

    MissFit Senior Member

    Here's my two or three cents worth:

    Can you feel my heart beating. Beating is a participle serving as an adjective and describing the word heart. Heart is the direct object that is being felt. A similar sentence is, "Can you hear my sister singing." It is the sister that is being heard and the sister is described as singing.

    Can you feel my heart's beating. Beating is a gerund and the direct object that is being felt. Heart's is a possesive adjective describing beating. In the sentence, "Can you hear my sister's singing" it is the singing that is being heard, and the singing is described as belonging to the sister.

    I can't imagine that a native speaker would say, "My heart beating is increasing" or "My heart beating is in a healthy range" except to make a grammar point. The rate at which the heart beats is called the heartbeat or pulse.
  10. anniemac Junior Member

    england - english
    Thankyou for your comments MissFit - the way you have described that makes a lot of sense and helps to clarify things much more.

    Many thanks
  11. pioussoul Banned

    Well, Misfit, here is what I found, for your reference:

    The mother still refuses medical intervention and insists traditional healers take over. This is in spite of the child herself asking to be treated.


    Can you feel my heart beating? Does it sound better to you now?
  12. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Bravo MissFit. Now even I understand gerunds. :thumbsup:

    For the frivolous amongst us, here is a link to a picture of a gerund.

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