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Gerund or Participle:  Deciphering the Difference

Both gerunds and participles are  verbals; that is, they are both  formed by adding +ing to a verb and both express action or a state of being. The difference between the two lies in their function within the sentence.

Part A:  GERUNDS have the same functions as NOUNS in sentences. They can be single words or gerund phrases.

  • Subject Gerunds:
         1. Learning is a lifelong process. .
         2. Learning to speak and write English well takes a lot of practice.
  • Direct object Gerunds:
         1. Bertha hates shopping. She'd rather save her money.
         2. She prefers putting her money in a savings account.
    • Gerunds as objects of prepositions:.
           1. James is not known for studying
           2. He failed his last exam on identifying the parts of speech.
  • Subject complement Gerunds after linking verbs:
         1. All summer long, Lisa's favorite pastime has been  surfing.
         2. Meanwhile, her younger brother's favorite activity has been  surfing the internet.
  • Punctuation NoteGerunds and gerund phrases never require punctuation because we never separate subjects or objects from verbs.

    Recognizing gerunds and gerund phrases and their functions in sentences:

         •Click the gerund in the following sentences to see the whole gerund phrase.
         •Reread the sentence to determine the function of the gerund or gerund phrase.
         •Select its sentence function.


    1. Increasing the vehicle license fee Increasing the vehicle license fee angered most California residents.
    2. Arold Schwarzenegger appealed to California voters by promising to rescind the vehicle license feepromising to rescind the vehicle license fee.
    3. Many people would recommend delaying the legal age for driving delaying the legal age for driving.
    4. Giving a license to sixteen-year-old kids Giving a license to sixteen-year-old kids is often risky.
    5. If you have vision problems, you shouldn't risk driving at nightdriving at night.
    6. Why did Richard have to delay getting his driver's licensegetting his driver's license.
    7. Before Sarah takes her driver's test, she has to practice parallel parkingparking.
    8. If you get stopped for a traffic violation, you should avoid arguing with the police officer arguing with the police officer.
    9. The most dangerous part of a driving instructor's job is having the new driver enter a freeway having the new driver enter a freeway.
    10. When Maria got her third ticket for speeding speeding, her father took her license away.
    11. You can get a ticket for not using your turn signalnot using your turn signal.
    12. The difference between an injury accident and a fatal one can simply be wearing a seatbelt wearing a seatbelt.

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    Content development by Kathleen Hanson, San Jose City College.
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