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The Grammatical Categories of the Gerund

Voice Perfect Active   Passive  
Non-Perfect   running taking   - being taken  
Perfect   having ran having taken   - having been taken


The category of perfect


§ 118. The category of perfect finds its expression, as with other verb forms, in the contrast of non-perfect (indefinite) and perfect forms.

The non-perfect gerund denotes an action simultaneous with that expressed by the finite verb.


Students improve their pronunciation John improved his pronunciation You will improve your pronunciation   by listening to tape recordings.  


The perfect gerund denotes an action prior to the action denoted by the finite verb.


I regret I regretted I will always regret   having uttered these words.  


The perfect gerund is invariable in indicating priority, whereas the meaning of the non-perfect gerund is vaguer and more flexible and may easily be modified by the context. Thus according to the context the action denoted by the non-perfect gerund may precede or follow the action denoted by the finite verb. The non-perfect gerund may denote a prior action thanks to the lexical meaning of the verb or the preposition suggesting priority, so the non-perfect gerund is generally used after verbs of recollection, gratitude, blame, reproach, punishment and reward.


I shall never forget taking this exam.

I remember talking to him once.

Thank you for helping me.


The non-perfect gerund is to be found in gerundial phrases introduced by the prepositions on and after. The preposition on suggests immediate priority and an instantaneous action.


On reaching the end of the street we turned towards the river.

Tom, after reflecting a little, gave a long sigh.


The lexical meaning of the above-mentioned verbs and prepositions makes the use of the perfect form redundant. It is used, however, when the priority is emphasized, as in following examples:


And all of a sudden David remembered having heard the name before.

He came back after having been away for about ten years.


The non-perfect gerund expresses a succeeding action after verbs, adjectives and prepositions implying reference to a future event (such as to intend, to insist, to object, to suggest, to look forward to) and after the preposition before:


I insist on your staying with us.

We are looking forward to visiting new places.

Ann suggested going to the cinema.

I’m not keen on getting myself into trouble.

We met once more before parting.


The same form occurs after nouns suggesting futurity such as plan, intention, hope, prospect:


There is some hope of catching the last train.


The category of voice


§ 119. The gerund of transitive verbs possesses voice distinctions. Like other verb forms, the active gerund points out that the action is directed from the subject (whether expressed or implied), whereas the passive gerund indicates that the action is directed towards the subject.


Active gerund Passive gerund
I hate interrupting people. I am not used to talking in that way. On telling me the time, he turned away. He entered without having knocked at the door. - I hate being interrupted. - I am not used to being talked to in that way. - On being told some impossible hour, he turned away. - The door opened without having been knocked on.


The perfect passive gerund is very rarely used.

There are some verbs (to need, to want, to require, to deserve) and the adjective worth which are followed by an active gerund with passive meaning.


Your hair needs cutting.

This house wants painting.

Your suggestion is worth talking over.


Syntactical Functions of the Gerund


§ 120. The gerund can perform any syntactical function typical of a noun, although in each case it has peculiarities of its own. It may function (a) alone, without modifiers, or (b) as the headword of a gerundial phrase, or (c) as part of a gerundial predicative construction. Since the functions of gerundial constructions are identical with those of single gerunds or gerundial phrases, we shall treat them together. The gerundial constructions are usually translated by clauses.


a) I like driving.

b) I like playing the piano.

c) I like John’s (his) playing the piano.


A gerundial phrase consists of a gerund as headword and one or more words depending on it.

A gerundial construction contains some nominal element denoting the doer of the action expressed by the gerund and the gerund itself with or without some other words depending on it. The nominal element can be a noun in the genitive case or a possessive pronoun (if it denotes a living being), or a noun in the common case (if it does not denote a living being).


I remember John’s telling me that story once.

I remember the weather being extremely fine that summer.

We are absolutely against grown-up children being treated as babies.


There is a growing tendency, especially in informal speech, to use the pronoun in the objective case and a noun in the common case to denote the doer of the action expressed by the gerund with reference to living beings too.


They were all in favour of Tommy playing the main part.


The gerund as subject


§ 121. As a rule the gerund as subject stands in front position.


John(‘s) coming tomorrow will make all the difference.

Growing roses, collecting postage stamps or old swords are hobbies.


The subject stands in postposition in sentences opening with an introductory it, which happens when the meaning of the subject is accentuated and the predicate is a phrase such as to be (of) no use (no good, useless), to make all the (no) difference.


If you want me to help, it’s no good beating about the bush.

It will make no difference your being quiet.


In American English the pattern There is no use in doing it is preferable to It is no use doing it. In sentences with the introductory there the gerund is preceded by the negative pronoun no. Such sentences are usually emphatic.


Well, there’s no avoiding him now.

There is no accounting for his strange behaviour.


The gerund as part of the predicate


The gerund is used in compound predicates of both types - verbal and nominal.




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