English Language: Gerund

A Gerund is described as the – ing form of a verb when it is functioning as a noun. As a verbal derivative, it can function as both a verb and a noun. When functioning as a verb, it is certified by an adverb and has an object following it. As a noun, its element abides in the fact of authorities by a preposition and in admitting the definite article. The use of gerund in English was now not firmly established before the middle of the fourteenth century. Even so, the gerundial development has never entered into colloquial speech but has a formal cast to the linguistic attention of most people. The English –ing form is also commonly associated with participles, both present, and progressive participles. It is, therefore, tricky to differentiate a gerund from these participles. This discussion purposes to seek to differentiate a gerund from a present participle and a present progressive, as well as show how the functions of subject and predicate affect the way these forms are classified.

The English gerund-participle has undergone some evolution over time. Traditionally, the gerund-participle was understood as either imperfective, durative, or ongoing. In recent times, a new approach has been introduced by a cognitive grammar which applies the tools of cognitive psychology to the study of human language. Cognitive grammar uses some fundamental concepts in the definition of the gerund-participle. These concepts are scanning and scope of predication. Just as used in temporal entities, scanning, in this case, refers to the mental processing of an event. This scanning can be in two modes, that is, sequential and summary. Sequential scanning involves following a situation state by state as it evolves through conceived time to produce a dynamic representation of an event reflecting the successive transformations deriving each state from its predecessor. Summary scanning, on the other hand, is more complex and involves building up a complete image of an event by accumulating images of all the instances actualized at each moment of the event’s development.

In the grammatical domain, verbs are distinguished from such classes as an adjective, an adverb, a preposition, an infinitive, and a participle in virtue of designating a process rather than to an atemporal relation. A process is described as a relationship followed sequentially in its evolution through conceived time, whereas an atemporal relation, in the case of infinitives and participles involves suspending the sequential scanning of the verb stem, that is, the summary rather than sequential scanning. This allows the –ing form as a noun modifier and bars it from being the head of a finite clause. The ing participle designates an imperfective simple atemporal relation which excludes its initial and final states. The ing form is also used as an attributive modifier. In such a case, the verb stem is imperfective, and so the role of the ing cannot be of imperfectivizing a perfective process. The role is, therefore, to atemporalize the verb stem such that it can be used as a noun modifier. With this revelation, it is clear that the gerund participle denotes progressive aspectuality.

The distinction in use of the ing form for a gerund-participle and that of present participle is slight. Ideally, both have the same form, and their only difference is in how they are used. A gerund functions as a noun while a present participle functions like a verb or an adjective in conjunction with an auxiliary verb. For example, in “is jumping” jumping is a present participle since it is used with an auxiliary verb. In “A jumping kiddie” jumping is still a present participle since it acts as an adjective. However, when used in a sentence such as “Jumping eases stress,” it is a gerund since it is acting as the subject noun of the sentence. When a gerund is acting as a noun, it can take the form of a subject, or an object, or the object of a preposition, or a subject complement. On the other hand, a present participle can act like an adjective that modifies a noun or follows the “be” verb. For instance, “an exciting ride.” Exciting is a present participle modifying the noun ride.

For the present progressive, it is defined as a verb construction made up of a present form of the verb “to be” added to a present participle. The progressive usually expresses a sense of ongoing action. It is at other times known as present continuous. The present participle and present progressive are used together in sentences since the present participle by itself cannot serve the function of the main verb in a sentence. However, a verb in the present progressive aspect can itself serve as the predicate of a sentence. A predicate is the essence of a sentence or a clause that contains a verb and states something about the subject. For example, skipped lunch in “Sally skipped lunch.” The functions of a present participle and a present progressive can be demonstrated well in a sentence. For example, “Sally swinging her hips to the rhythm” is an incomplete sentence. In this sentence, “swinging” begins a present participial phrase that tells us about the noun, Sally. To make this sentence complete, we can add a subject and a predicate. For instance, we can add the subject “I” and a predicate “remember.” Therefore, the sentence will now read, “I remember Sally swinging her hips to the rhythm.” Another way to fragment the sentence is to make the present progressive to be the predicate. This will look like “Sally is swinging her hips to the rhythm.”

To sum the discussion up, a gerund, present participle, and present progressive are all aspects used in the English grammar in sentence structures. A gerund and a present participle have the same form of –ing, but their difference is in their functions. A gerund functions as a noun while the present participle functions as a verb or an adjective in conjunction with an auxiliary verb. A gerund can also function as a verb whereby it is qualified by an adverb and followed by an object. The present progressive is used to show activities that are ongoing and is sometimes referred to as present continuous. The present progressive can also be used as a predicate in a sentence. The above functions bring in the distinction between gerund, present participle, and present progressive.

Works Cited

Duffley, Patrick J. “The English gerund-participle in cognitive grammar.” The LACUS forum. Vol. 32. Hornbeam Press, 2006.

Karl G. Pfeiffer. The Present Participle. The English Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Mar., 1931), pp. 249-250

Susan Kesner Bland. The Present Progressive in Discourse: Grammar versus Usage Revisited. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 1988), pp. 53-68

W. L. Weber. The English Gerund. PMLA, Vol. 14, Appendix I and II. Proceedings 1899 (1899)

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