What is the Difference Between a Gerund and a Present Participle

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.

Example: snowboarding


Snowboarding is fun (gerund). He is snowboarding (past participle).

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 snowboardingpresent 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.

Example: exciting

Exciting Roller Coaster

An exciting time was had by all!

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)


  1. What an amazing movie! I want to watch it again!


  1. Speaking English well takes a long time.


  1. He cares about getting a good job.


  1. Shh! I am trying to sleep.


  1. My friends and I were sitting in a café and talking.


  1. The directions were very confusing.


  1. They have been studying for a long time and want to take a break.


  1. She loves traveling.


Answers: 1) adjective, 2) gerund, 3) gerund, 4) verb, 5) verb & verb, 6) adjective, 7) verb, 8) gerund