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There is a certain suffix that all students of English know, and that is ‘-ing.’ We add this suffix to the end of a verb. Studying, eating, reading, sleeping. However, the same word can be classified in two different ways: as a gerund, or as a present participle. These two different classifications will be discussed in this week’s Tip of the Week.
The gerund is noun that we make by putting the letters ‘-ing’ at the end of a verb. It’s important to remember that the gerund is a noun, and not a verb. We use the gerund in three different situations.
The first case in which we use the gerund is after a preposition. For example, when we say “We use a pen for writing,” or “The best part about having a car is you don’t have to use public transport,” the words ‘writing’ and ‘having’ are gerunds. In each example sentence, they are located after a preposition. We use the infinitive in this case in Spanish, but in English we use the gerund.
The second case in which we use the gerund is as a subject in a sentence. We most often see this as the first word in the sentence. When we say “Smoking is bad for the health,” or “Learning the violin is very difficult,” the words ‘smoking’ and ‘learning’ are gerunds, and they are the subjects of each of the above sentences. This is another situation in which we use the infinitive in Spanish, but the gerund in English.
The third case in which we use the gerund is after certain verbs. After some verbs we use the infinitive, and after others we use the gerund. Unfortunately, there is no rule to determine which to use; we simply need to learn and remember each, one by one. Some examples of this:
– “I considered joining the military after finishing high school.”
– “He will always deny breaking the law, even though we all know he did.”
The present participle, although it is the same word as the gerund, is generally used in a different way: as part of a verb tense. It is used as part of a continuous tense, to be exact. The present continuous, the past continuous, the perfect continuous tenses. Some examples of this:
– Steven is finishing dinner.
– They were doing their homework at this time yesterday.
– How long have you been studying English?
In the above sentences, the underlined words are all examples of the present participle. As they are not after a main verb, or a preposition, or the subject of the sentence, they are not an example of the gerund.
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