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Online Writing Courses: Gerunds

Updated on August 30, 2013

improve writing skills and English grammar with free online writing classes

Welcome to another lesson in my free online writing courses. The main purpose of my online writing classes is to help students with writing the English language and English grammar, but some adult writers might find them helpful, also – especially as a reminder. If you want to be taken seriously as a freelance writer, you can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes with grammar and mechanics. Improving your writing skills will definitely make you more marketable. If you’re a student, my online writing classes will provide some remediation. If English is your second language, you should benefit from some of my online writing courses, too.

I’ve seen numerous problems with gerunds – especially when I was teaching writing skills. That’s the reason I decided to include this entry into my free online writing classes.

What’s a gerund?

A gerund is an –ing verb form that functions as a noun. We use them all the time, and they can function as subjects, subject complements, appositives, direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions.

Gerunds as subjects:

Horseback riding is my favorite activity.

Shopping is hectic this time of year.

Asking questions is not permitted.

Exercising is a good way to keep in shape.

Gerunds as subject complements:

My favorite sport is fishing.

Her goal was finishing the race.

His dream was becoming a minister.

His highest achievement was winning the award.

Gerunds as appositives:

My favorite sport, fishing, can be expensive.

Her goal, finishing the race, was almost impossible.

His dream, becoming a minister, will be difficult for him.

His highest achievement, winning the award, was applauded by his followers.

Gerunds as direct objects:

Johnny hates jogging.

I enjoy fishing.

She tried drinking beer, but she didn’t like the taste.

Most primary teachers like interacting with children.

Gerunds as indirect objects:

I gave his writing a good grade.

I give fishing my full attention.

The academy awarded her acting the Oscar.

The coach offered Don’s debating a few tips.

Gerunds as object of preposition:

I got stopped for speeding.

I need some tips for writing.

He offered some help with swimming.

The professor gave me some great advice about reading.

Gerunds and possession

Since gerunds function as nouns, they often show possession. This is where many people make mistakes with gerunds.

Dad came to the pool to watch me swimming. incorrect

Dad came to the pool to watch my swimming. Correct

I appreciate you asking me to the party. incorrect

I appreciate your asking me to the party. Correct

Sometimes you have to consider the overall meaning of the sentence when trying to decide to use the possessive form with a gerund:

I hate Jim playing guitar.

I hate Jim’s playing guitar.

Do you hate Jim? If so, the first sentence is correct. Do you hate to hear Jim playing the guitar? In that case, the second sentence would be correct.

Johnny didn’t like the toddler sitting next to him.

Johnny didn’t like the toddler’s sitting next to him.

In the first sentence, Johnny didn’t like the toddler – the one who was sitting next to him. In the second sentence, Johnny didn’t like that the toddler was sitting next to him. He might actually like the toddler.

When the noun before the gerund is plural or collective, it’s usually best not to use the possessive form:

The group working together was an excellent strategy.

The students studying intensely was a wonderful sight.

Improve writing skills and English grammar with practice!

If all this sounds “Greek” to you, take it one step at a time. Don’t try to improve writing skills all at once. Focus on one skill until you have it mastered. If, for example, you’re trying to improve writing skills by using gerunds correctly, make up a few of your own sentences where the gerunds function as subjects. Then move on the subject complements, appositives, direct objects, and so on. The more you practice effective writing, the more your writing skills will improve.

I have several more free online writing courses posted, if you’re interested. You can view them by clicking the links below. Happy writing!

Improve writing skills with my free online writing classes.
Improve writing skills with my free online writing classes.

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