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What is a Gerund Phrase- Definition and Function with Examples

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What is a Gerund and Gerund Phrase?

A form of a verb that ends in -ing is called a gerund. It is used as a noun in a sentence; therefore, it is also called a verbal noun. All gerunds end with –ing. A gerund phrase is a group of two or more words that act as a noun in a sentence.

The following are examples of a gerund.

Shouting, walking, doing, opening, going

Playing cricket is good for health.
(Playing is formed from the verb play and is used as a noun.)
We enjoy walking along the road. 
She put off doing her homework.

Gerund Phrase Definition 

A gerund phrase is headed by a gerund and followed by any complements or modifiers. Similar to participles and infinitives, gerunds can also be turned into gerund phrases simply by adding words (complements or modifiers) to the gerunds.

Look at the example of the gerund phrase in the sentence.

Drinking a glass of milk daily keeps you healthy.

This can be broken down like this.

Drinking that comes at the beginning of the sentence is the gerund. 
a glass of milk is the object of the gerund. (object is something which is being acted upon)

daily is the modifier in the sentence.

The three parts (gerund + object + modifier) combined and made the gerund phrase.

Note that a gerund phrase can also be made without an object. In this case, a gerund phrase is composed of a gerund and its modifier. But a gerund phrase also exists without a modifier. If this is the case, then a gerund phrase contains a gerund plus its object. See examples later in this section. Keep in mind the three formulae in mind.

Gerund + Object + Modifier = Gerund Phrase
Gerund + Modifier = Gerund Phrase
Gerund + Object = Gerund Phrase

How do you make a Gerund Phrase?

We make a gerund phrase using the following parts.

Gerund

A gerund phrase consists of a gerund which is called the head and comes at the beginning of a phrase.

Modifiers or Complements

The part which combines with a gerund to make a gerund phrase is modifiers or complements. The complement that goes with the gerund can be a direct object and indirect object and may also have some modifier. 
  • Wearing tight jeans may confine you.
(In this sentence, 'wearing' is the gerund and 'tight jeans' is the object of the gerund both combine and make a gerund phrase)
  • I love walking along the beach.
  • Jogging every morning for at least an hour is a healthy exercise.
  • Smoking too much in summer is very dangerous for health.

The function of Gerund Phrases

Gerunds phrases are verbal nouns; they may be used anywhere in a sentence that a noun would fit. They can be used as the subject or the direct object, the subject complement, or maybe the object of a preposition or predicate nominative in a sentence. 

Examples of Gerund Phrase as Subjects 

The following are examples of gerund phrases used to act the sentence's subject. The subject is the person or thing that carries out the action expressed by the verb.
  • Going the wrong way was a mistake.
Going (gerund)
the wrong way (object of the action expressed in gerund)
  • Playing a football game is always fun.
  • Giving him this watch will make him very happy.
  • Traveling across the whole city would be great fun.
  • Working in the garden alone will make you tired.
  • Watching movies before sleep was my most enjoyable habit.

Examples of Gerund Phrase as Objects

The gerund phrase act as the direct or indirect object in the following sentence. A direct object is an object that receives the action. An indirect object is someone or something that action is directed toward.
  • They advise taking tickets early.
  • They aren't interested in buying a new bike.
  • Does she like walking with those boys?
  • I hate eating dinner without friends.
  • The hunter aimed killing the stag.
  • My dad doesn't mind outings at night.
  • The company made working one month without salary a requirement to take the manager position.
The following are examples of gerund phrases without an object
  • Exercising daily is the key to a healthy life.
  • Eating quickly is a bad habit.

Examples of Gerund Phrase as Predicate Nominative

A predicate nominative or a predicate noun is a group of words that follows the 'be verb' in a sentence. A gerund phrase can act as a predicate nominative in a sentence. A predicate nominative answers an indirect question expressed by the first part of the sentence. 
  • His biggest goal was recovering his lost money.
(What was his biggest goal? It was recovering his lost money.)
  • My first and most important achievement was taking admission in this university.
  • My first priority is looking for a well-ventilated room.
  • His worst habit is sleeping too late at night.

Examples of Gerund Phrase as Object of Preposition

Each preposition written in bold in the following sentences is followed by its object, which is the gerund phrase.
  • I have a lot of knowledge about drinking water after a meal.
  • They will only arrest him after finding the evidence.
  • The summer season is good for visiting relatives abroad.
  • I haven't got any job offers since leaving the previous one.

How do we identify a gerund phrase in a sentence?

Questions introduced by verbs in sentences can be answered using gerund phrases.   For example, what is your favorite pastime? (Playing a game with friends.) What does she like? (Dancing in her bedroom.) 

To identify a gerund phrase in a sentence, first look for a word that ends in -ing. But the -ing word must do the function of a noun. If a word ends in -ing and does the work of a noun, then it is a gerund. If a gerund is followed by an object (direct or indirect) or any modifier, the whole group of words will be a gerund phrase. It doesn't matter where the gerund phrase appears in a sentence, but it must satisfy the rules.

The following examples will help in identifying gerund phrases in a sentence.

She likes dancing in her bedroom.

In this sentence, the -ing word is dancing, and it does the work of a noun, i.e., a gerund.

The modifier in this sentence is 'in her bedroom.' The gerund plus its modifier in this sentence make the gerund phrase dancing in her bedroom.
  • Playing cards with friends is our favorite pastime.
  • The doctor doesn't recommend taking a pill with less water to sleep early at night.

Identifying Gerund Phrase Trick

To test a group of words is a gerund or not, replace that group of words with one of these words someone, something, this, or that. Since all these words are nouns and a gerund phrase can be exactly replaced with these words. If a group of words isn't replacing these words correctly, that will not be a gerund phrase. For example

Drinking alcoholic beverages will make you ill.

Is this sentence's group of words properly replaced with the above words? Let's remove the entire gerund phrase and replace it with those words.

Someone will make you ill.
Something will make you ill.
This will make you ill.
That will make you ill.

The above group of words is correctly replaced with these words, so it is a gerund phrase. 

Let's look at one more example

What the baby truly loves is drinking tea by the feeder.

Here in this sentence, 'drinking' is the -ing word followed by its object 'tea' and a modifier 'by the feeder.'

Is it a gerund phrase? Again, replace with those words, i.e., What the baby truly loves is someone/something/this/that. Yes, it is a gerund phrase.

The following group of words contains an -ing word with modifiers, but it isn't a gerund phrase because it doesn't satisfy the gerund phrase rules. Also, if we replace this with a noun word, it doesn't make any sense.

Drinking alcoholic beverages, Saleem and Ali fell asleep. 

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