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The Gerund Phrase

Recognize a gerund phrase when you see one.

A gerund phrase will begin with a gerund, an ing word, and will include other modifiers and/or objects. Gerund phrases always function as nouns, so they will be subjects, subject complements, or objects in the sentence. Read these examples:

Eating ice cream on a windy day can be a messy experience if you have long, untamed hair.

Eating ice cream on a windy day = subject of the verb can be.

A more disastrous activity for long-haired people is blowing giant bubble gum bubbles with the car windows down.

Blowing giant bubble gum bubbles with the car windows down = subject complement of the verb is.

Wild food adventures require getting your hair cut to a short, safe length.

Getting your hair cut to a short, safe length = direct object of the verb require.

Don't mistake a gerund phrase for a present participle phrase.

Gerund and present participle phrases are easy to confuse because they both begin with an ing word. The difference is that a gerund phrase will always function as a noun while a present participle phrase describes another word in the sentence. Check out these examples:

Jamming too much clothing into a washing machine will result in disaster.

Jamming too much clothing into a washing machine = gerund phrase, the subject of the verb will result.

Jamming too much clothing into the washing machine, Aamir saved $1.25 but had to tolerate the curious stares of other laundry patrons as his machine bucked and rumbled with the heavy load.

Jamming too much clothing into the washing machine = present participle phrase describing Aamir.

Bernard hates buttering toast with a fork.

Buttering toast with a fork = gerund phrase, the direct object of the verb hates.

Buttering toast with a fork, Bernard vowed that he would finally wash the week's worth of dirty dishes piled in the sink.

Buttering toast with a fork = present participle phrase describing Bernard.

My dog's most annoying habit is hogging the middle of the bed.

Hogging the middle of the bed = gerund phrase, the subject complement of the linking verb is.

Last night I had to sleep on the couch because I found my dog Floyd hogging the middle of the bed.

Hogging the middle of the bed = present participle phrase describing Floyd.

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