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Take a closer look at the verbs and nouns we use in everyday language to help you understand gerunds. Watch this video lesson to learn the exact nature of gerunds and their purpose in writing.

Verbs vs. Nouns

Our language has many different types of words necessary for communication. Gerunds are one of those types, but before we can jump right into their definition and purpose, we need to review verbs and nouns.Verbs are the words that show action words or state of being.

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Some examples of actions are ‘jump,’ ‘swim,’ and ‘walk.’ However, not all actions are physical. ‘Dreaming,’ ‘thinking,’ and ‘wishing’ are also verbs, as they are mental actions.The other type of verb shows state of being.

The most popular verb that falls in this category is the verb ‘to be.’ For example, look at this sentence: ”She is happy.” ‘Is,’ which is a form of ‘to be,’ is the verb in this sentence since it is describing the girl’s state of being. Be sure to realize that the ‘to be’ forms are the verbs in many sentences.Nouns are commonly defined as people, places, or things. This basic definition is enough for our purposes, but remember that ideas, like freedom or patience, are considered things and thus are nouns.

Now that we have reviewed, see if you can identify the verbs and nouns in the following sentences:

  • ”Jeff hit the baseball over the fence.” (verb = ‘hit,’ nouns = ‘Jeff,’ ‘baseball,’ ‘fence’)
  • ”Amy is excited for the dance.” (verb = ‘is,’ nouns = ‘Amy,’ ‘dance’)
  • ”The boys ran to the street at dawn.” (verb = ‘ran,’ nouns = ‘boys,’ ‘street,’ ‘dawn’)

Functions of Verbs ; Nouns

Now that we have reviewed the definitions of verbs and nouns, we need to discuss their functions in sentences.

We have already discussed how verbs show action or state of being. This is basically the function of verbs: They need to show what the nouns are doing. Verbs serve that one main function. On the other hand, nouns can serve several different functions in sentences.

For example, look at the first sentence from above: ”Jeff hit the baseball over the fence.” One function of nouns is to represent the person or object doing the action. This is called the subject. What is the action in this sentence? ‘Ran’ is the verb since it is showing what the subject is doing.

Who is doing the action? In this case, Jeff’ is the person doing the action and so is the subject of the sentence.What about the other nouns in that sentence? ‘Baseball’ and ‘fence’ are not the subject. They are known as objects, another function of nouns. Objects are nouns that receive the action. There are different kinds of objects, but for this lesson, we don’t need to define them. You only need to understand the difference between subjects and objects in order to learn about gerunds.

Gerunds

So, now that we have reviewed verbs and nouns and have learned about their functions in sentences, we can finally look at gerunds.

Let’s start by looking at an example: ”Running is so much fun.”Can you identify the verbs and nouns in this sentence? Let’s start with the action. What is the verb? Which word shows the action or state of being? In this case ‘is’ is the verb. But what about running then? Running is obviously an action. Shouldn’t that be considered the verb? If so, then what is our subject? Running is not a noun, so do we have no subject?Every sentence must have a subject. This sentence shows an example of a gerund. A gerund is a verb that is functioning as a noun.

In this case, ‘running’ is functioning as the subject of the sentence. We use the term ‘gerund’ to show that the word is actually a verb, but for this particular sentence, it is being used as a noun.You can also have a gerund being used as an object in a sentence. For example, ”I love reading.” What is the action? ‘Love’ is the verb of the sentence. Who is doing the action? ‘I’ is the subject of the sentence. Finally, ‘reading’ is operating as the object of the sentence since it is receiving the action.

‘Reading’ is a gerund in this sentence.

Lesson Summary

To review, you need to fully grasp verbs and nouns before you can understand gerunds. A verb is a word showing action or state of being.

A noun is a word representing a person, place or thing. Verbs are important to sentences since they show what the nouns are doing. A noun can either be a subject, which is the person or object doing the action, or an object, which is the noun receiving the action.

Gerunds are verbs that are functioning as nouns in a sentence. For example, ‘running’ is a verb since it shows the action of nouns. However, in this sentence, ”Running is so much fun,” the verb is actually ‘is’ and ‘running’ is a gerund performing the function of the subject.Knowing the difference between verbs, nouns, and gerunds can greatly help you to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing.

Learning Outcomes

After this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define nouns and verbs
  • Differentiate between subject and object
  • Describe the functions of nouns and verbs in sentences
  • Explain what a gerund is and understand how to identify them

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