Grammar 6 min read

What is a Gerund Phrase and Example?

A gerund (pronounced jer-und) is a noun created by adding the ending –ing to a verb (Example: laughing). Similarly, a gerund phrase is a phrase made up of a gerund plus any associated objects or modifiers (Example: Eating an entire pizza…). Even though a gerund is made out of a verb, gerunds and entire gerund phrases actually behave like nouns. In fact, both gerunds and gerund phrases can be objects, subjects, or predicate nominatives.

Binge-watching sci-fi movies is my guilty pleasure.
My dream holiday includes sailing to every Greek island.
Forgetting to shut the window in winter will make you cold.
I’d like to begin walking every day.
She decided to try calling her friend on the phone.

Gerund sounds like a foreign word, but gerunds are actually a common part of the English language — and so are gerund phrases. In this guide, we’ll show you what a gerund phrase is and how to use it best with plenty of easy examples.

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Gerund Phrase
A gerund phrase has an object, modifier, or both. When used in a sentence, it acts as a noun.

How do you Identify a Gerund Phrase?

It’s easy to identify a gerund phrase because this type of phrase always follows these four easy rules:

  1. Gerund phrases always start with a gerund.
  2. A gerund phrase has an object, modifier, or both.
  3. The entire gerund phrase acts as a noun.
  4. Since it behaves like a noun, the gerund phrase has singular agreement with a verb.

🤔💡 If the answer to all of these questions is “Yes,” then you’ve identified a gerund phrase:

  • Does it begin with a gerund?
  • Does it have an object or a modifier (or both)?
  • Does the entire phrase function as a noun?
  • Does the entire phrase have singular agreement with a verb?
Pouring too much batter into your cake tin might result in disaster.

Let’s confirm that the bold portion in the above sentence is in fact a gerund phrase:

Does it begin with a gerund?

Yes. The sentence begins with the gerund pouring.

Does it have an object or a modifier (or both)?

Yes. “Too” is a modifier and “batter” is an object.

Does the entire phrase function as a noun?

Yes. The entire phrase “pouring too much batter into your cake tin” functions as an entire unit.

What’s more, it’s the subject of the sentence, making it a noun.

Finally, you can substitute the gerund phrase with the phrase “this thing” and the sentence still makes sense. Because a noun is a thing, you’ve confirmed that the complete gerund phrase is acting as a noun.

What is an Example of a Gerund Phrase?

Here are gerund phrase examples in a sentence:

Always wear steel toe boots when chopping trees down with an axe.
Cutting vegetables with a sharp knife requires caution.
Sheila hated running with her sneakers untied.
My teacher will give me detention for running in the main hall.
Eating too much candy before dinner will ruin your appetite.
Speaking loudly in the library disturbs other patrons.
Carla recommended walking to the park instead of taking the car.
Drinking too much water can be as harmful as drinking too little.
What is a gerund phrase. A gerund phrase is composed of a gerund (verb plus -ing), a preposition, article, or both, and a noun. Examples: exercising at the park and walking my dog.
A gerund phrase is a phrase made up of a gerund plus any associated objects or modifiers.

What is a Dangling Gerund Phrase?

Like a dangling modifier, dangling gerund phrases don’t clearly express who the subject of the sentence is. Examples of dangling gerund phrase constructions include “By being kinder to one another, the world can be a better place,” and “The world can be a better place by being kinder to one another.” In both examples, it’s not clear who can make the world a better place. We can correct the dangling gerund phrase by making the subject explicit: By being kinder to one another, we can make the world a better place.

Technical writers tend to use this structure. We recommend avoiding it to make sure you always express yourself as clearly as possible and never risk confusing your readers.

Gerunds are nouns created from a verb plus –ing. Notwithstanding, not all ing words are gerunds. For example, some are present participles. Additionally, gerund phrases include any of the gerund’s associated modifiers or objects.

How is a Gerund Used in a Sentence?

The word gerund comes from the Latin gerundus, which means “to carry on.” Simply put, gerunds are actually verbs ending in –ing — but they function as nouns. For example, words like running, jumping, exciting, getting, and telling are all gerunds. Moreover, as nouns, gerunds are objects, subjects, or predicate nominatives (also known as subject complements).

My favorite hobby is sleeping. (predicate nominative)
My husband’s snoring is hard to ignore. (subject)
I like reading on Sunday afternoons. (direct object)
They’ll be interested in talking to you. (object of preposition)
Running is good for your health. (subject)
Fran avoided doing laundry. (doing acts as a gerund)

Are all -ing Verbs Gerunds?

While gerunds are verbal nouns ending in –ing, it’s important to note that not all words ending in –ing are gerunds. For instance, sometimes, –ing words act as a present participle instead. For example, in the sentence “Laughing is a lot of fun,” the word “laughing” acts as a gerund. However, in the sentence “Juliet is laughing at your joke,” the word “laughing” acts as a a present continuous verb.

He really enjoyed driving. (driving acts as a gerund)
Patrick was driving down the road. (driving acts as a past continuous verb)
Parts of a gerund phrase. A guy waving tagged as gerund waving at a woman tagged as modifier/object.
Gerunds are nouns created from the verb roots plus –ing. For this reason, gerund phrases function as nouns in a sentence.

Main Gerund Phrase Takeaways:

  • Gerunds are nouns created from the verb roots plus –ing.
  • For this reason, gerund phrases function as nouns in a sentence.
  • A gerund phrase consists of a gerund and any objects or modifiers linked with it.
  • Entire gerund phrases act as objects, subjects, or predicate nominatives.
  • Verbs ending in –ing are either gerunds or present participles.
  • A dangling gerund phrase doesn’t have a clear subject. It’s best to avoid this construction because it may confuse your readers.

Take our Quick Gerund Phrase Quiz

Gerund Phrase Question #1

The word gerund has its origins in the Latin gerundus.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. The latin word gerundus means “to carry on.”

Gerund Question #2

A gerund is a ___ made of a ___ plus “-ing.”
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. Gerunds are nouns created from verb roots plus -ing.

Gerunds Question #3

Which of these words can function as a gerund?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. Gerunds are verbs (race) that end in “ing” (racing).

Gerund Phrases Question #4

Which of these sentences contain a gerund?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. Gerunds function as a noun in a sentence, not present participles.

Gerund Phrase Question #5

Which of the following is TRUE about a gerund phrase?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. These specific rules make gerund phrases easy to spot.

Gerund Phrase Question #6

Dangling gerund phrases don’t clearly express who a sentence’s subject is.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. Like dangling modifiers, dangling gerunds can confuse readers.

Gerund Phrases Quiz Result
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Read More: Easy Prepositional Phrase Guide with Examples

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Pam Weber

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, Writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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