Section 5: Gerund Phrases

A gerund is a verb with the {-ing} inflection but functions as a nominal only. Since gerunds are always nominal, a gerund phrase can occupy any noun position (nominal slot) in a sentence. The most common are subject, direct object, and object of preposition.


Eating my lunch is the best part of my day.

SOMETHING is the best part of my day.

Direct Object

I hope that you appreciate my offering you this opportunity.

I hope that you appreciate SOMETHING.

Object of the Preposition

You might get in trouble for faking an illness to avoid work.

You might get in trouble for SOMETHING.

Gerunds appear in the noun positions of sentences, but because they are not really nouns, they cannot take noun inflections.

Eating too many green apples made her sick.

*Eatings too many green apples made her sick.

On the other hand, some gerunds have become true nouns:

Meeting with Henry made her sick.

Meetings with Henry made her sick.

You should also be able to recognize and tell the difference between a participle and a gerund:

Untold numbers of students have succeeded searching online for a way of understanding difficult material in their courses.

searching = Adverbial participle phrase, modifying SUCCEEDED

understanding = Gerund (nominal): object of the preposition OF

Remember, while they may look the same, Present Participle Phrases always function adjectivally or adverbially, and Gerund Phrases always function nominally.

To test your understanding of the concepts discussed on this page, begin with the link below for an example practice exercise:


For a bit more of a challenge, analyze the following sentence from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for gerund phrases.

Looking out the doorway was a common practice for Dorothy, even though she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun has been burning the tops of the long blades for going on ten years, until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere.

To review your answers to these two samples, check the GERUND PHRASE SAMPLES ANALYSES page.

Or, if you're looking for a little distraction before starting on the practice exercises: since we've been analyzing text from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, crossing genres, here are our favorite covers of the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow":

Judy Garland


Eric Clapton

Ray Charles

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes