What is the difference between a gerund and a present participle?
Both a gerund and a present participle come from a verb, and both end in –ing. However, each has a different function. A gerund acts like a noun while a present participle acts like a verb or adjective.
Snowboarding can be a gerund or a present participle.
When snowboarding is a gerund, it acts like a noun. It can be a subject, an object, the object of a preposition, or a subject complement.
- Snowboarding is a winter sport. [snowboarding = subject]
- I love snowboarding. [snowboarding = object ]
- I am excited by snowboarding. [snowboarding = object of a preposition]
- One popular sport is snowboarding. [snowboarding = subject complement]
When snowboarding is a present participle, it is part of a continuous verb tense.
- Right now, the athlete is snowboarding. [is snowboarding = present continuous]
- He was snowboarding yesterday afternoon. [was snowboarding = past continuous]
- Tomorrow, my friends and I are going to be snowboarding. [are going to be snowboarding = future continuous]
Unlike a gerund, a present participle can act like an adjective that modifies a noun or follows the be verb.
The word exciting is a present participle used as an adjective to modify a noun or to follow the verb to be.
- The exciting ride made the people scream. [adjective + noun]
- People enjoyed the exciting roller coaster. [adjective + noun]
- The roller coaster is exciting. [be verb + adjective]
Now YOU try: Look at the sentences below. Decide whether the underlined –ing word is acting like a noun, part of a verb, or an adjective. (Answers below)
- What an amazing movie! I want to watch it again!
- Speaking English well takes a long time.
- He cares about getting a good job.
- Shh! I am trying to sleep.
- My friends and I were sitting in a café and talking.
- The directions were very confusing.
- They have been studying for a long time and want to take a break.
- She loves traveling.
Answers: 1) adjective, 2) gerund, 3) gerund, 4) verb, 5) verb & verb, 6) adjective, 7) verb, 8) gerund