Parts of Speech: Gerunds

September 3, 2009: Issue 304

A gerund is an -ing verb that functions as a noun:
Quilting brings people together.
Gardening helps me relax.

A gerund as a subject is grammatical, but sometimes it’s a weak construction. Ask yourself whether your sentence retains its meaning if you take away all the words that modify the gerund.

examples:
     Doing a few crunches every morning will tighten your tummy.
Planting these ornamental grasses adds year-round interest to your garden.
Choosing lighter colors gives the room a spacious feel.

Take away the modifiers and you have:
Doing will tighten your tummy.
Planting adds year-round interest to your garden.
Choosing gives the room a spacious feel.

You’ll create stronger subjects in these cases by deleting the gerunds:
A few crunches every morning will tighten your tummy.
These ornamental grasses add year-round interest to your garden.
Lighter colors give the room a spacious feel.

What those crunches do for your tummy, judicious use of gerunds will do for your writing.

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