How to properly use those '-ing' words

2 min read

Grammar rules are confusing, even for native English speakers. Consider gerunds, or words with an -ing ending. You might also know them as action verbs.

You’re probably used to hearing and seeing them all over the place, but do you know the rules for gerunds?

Gerunds after a preposition

A preposition explains a relationship with space or time and modifies the words that come after it. Prepositions include to, in, at, on, since, up, down, under, and many others. In order to use a verb properly after a preposition, you have to use it as a gerund. (Unless you’re using the preposition but. Sorry, we said English was tricky.)

In these examples, the preposition is in italics and the gerund is in bold.

  • Study hard before taking your exams.
  • She delivered the joke without laughing.
  • After riding the bus to work, I stopped for coffee.  

Gerunds can also be used after a noun plus a preposition.

  • TV shows about cooking are becoming more popular.

And after an adjective plus a preposition.

  • I’m tired of waking up at 5 a.m. every day.
  • She’s sad about having to cancel her show.

Gerunds in the present simple tense

The present simple tense is used in English to talk about things that are true at the moment. For example, you could use gerunds to discuss things that you or someone else likes or dislikes.

  • She doesn’t like driving.
  • They love hiking!

Gerunds could also be used to talk about things you remember.

  • I remember watching that show when I was a kid.
  • Do you remember using a jump rope in your yard?

You could use gerunds to talk about things you’re going to try.

  • I’m trying to learn how to skateboard.
  • She’s trying to knit a scarf.

It’s common to use gerunds when discussing feelings of remorse or regret.

  • He regrets not studying abroad while in college.
  • They regret wearing flip-flops today — it was so cold!

Gerunds as the subject in a sentence

When using a gerund as the subject in a sentence, you’ll spot it at the beginning.

  • Having breakfast in the morning is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Staying up too late can cause you to be sleepy the next day.
  • Traveling can expose you to different ideas and experiences.

Feature photo credit: Joel & Jasmin Førestbird/ Unsplash

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