Gerunds (-ing)

A gerund phrase will begin with a gerund, an ing word, and will include other modifiers and/or objects. Gerund phrases always function as nouns, so they will be subjects, subject complements, or objects in the sentence.  When a verb ends in -ing, it may be a gerund or a present participle. It is important to understand that they are not the same.
When we use a verb in -ing form more like a noun, it is usually a gerund:
  • Fishing is fun.
When we use a verb in -ing form more like a verb or an adjective, it is usually a present participle:
  • Anthony is fishing.
  • I have a boring teacher.
Gerunds as Subject, Object or Complement

Try to think of gerunds as verbs in noun form.
Like nouns, gerunds can be the subject, object or complement of a sentence:
  • Smoking costs a lot of money.
  • I don't like writing.
  • My favourite occupation is reading.
But, like a verb, a gerund can also have an object itself. In this case, the whole expression [gerund + object] can be the subject, object or complement of the sentence.
  • Smoking cigarettes costs a lot of money.
  • I don't like writing letters.
  • My favourite occupation is reading detective stories.
Like nouns, we can use gerunds with adjectives (including articles and other determiners):
  • pointless questioning
  • a settling of debts
  • the making of Titanic
  • his drinking of alcohol
But when we use a gerund with an article, it does not usually take a direct object:
  • a settling of debts (not a settling debts)
  • Making "Titanic" was expensive.
  • The making of "Titanic" was expensive.
Do you see the difference in these two sentences? In one, "reading" is a gerund (noun). In the other "reading" is a present participle (verb).
  • My favourite occupation is reading.
  • My favourite niece is reading.
Hide answer
reading as gerund (noun)
Main Verb
My favourite occupation
My favourite occupation
reading as present participle (verb)
Auxiliary Verb
Main Verb
My favourite niece
My favourite niece

Gerunds after Prepositions
This is a good rule. It has no exceptions!
If we want to use a verb after a preposition, it must be a gerund. It is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition. So for example, we say:
  • I will call you after arriving at the office.
  • Please have a drink before leaving.
  • I am looking forward to meeting you.
  • Do you object to working late?
  • Tara always dreams about going on holiday.
Notice that you could replace all the above gerunds with "real" nouns:
  • I will call you after my arrival at the office.
  • Please have a drink before your departure.
  • I am looking forward to our lunch.
  • Do you object to this job?
  • Tara always dreams about holidays.
The above rule has no exceptions!
So why is "to" followed by "driving" in 1 and by "drive" in 2?
  1. I am used to driving on the left.
  2. I used to drive on the left.
Hide answer
to as preposition

I am used
driving on the left.
I am used
to as infinitive

I used
to drive
on the left
I used
to smoke.

Gerunds in Passive Sense
We often use a gerund after the verbs need, require and want. In this case, the gerund has a passive sense.
  • I have three shirts that need washing. (need to be washed)
  • This letter requires signing. (needs to be signed)
  • The house wants repainting. (needs to be repainted)
The expression "something wants doing" is not normally used in American English.

Gerunds after Certain Verbs
We sometimes use one verb after another verb. Often the second verb is in the infinitive form, for example:
  • I want to eat.
But sometimes the second verb must be in gerund form, for example:
  • I dislike eating.
This depends on the first verb. Here is a list of verbs that are usually followed by a verb in gerund form:
  • admit, appreciate, avoid, carry on, consider, defer, delay, deny, detest, dislike, endure, enjoy, escape, excuse, face, feel like, finish, forgive, give up, can't help, imagine, involve, leave off, mention, mind, miss, postpone, practise, put off, report, resent, risk, can't stand, suggest, understand
Look at these examples:
  • She is considering having a holiday.
  • Do you feel like going out?
  • I can't help falling in love with you.
  • I can't stand not seeing you.
Some verbs can be followed by the gerund form or the infinitive form without a big change in meaning: begin, continue, hate, intend, like, love, prefer, propose, start
  • I like to play tennis.
  • I like playing tennis.
  • It started to rain.
  • It started raining.

        Giving advice refers to when we tell other people what we think could help them. The most common way to give advice is by using the modal verb 'should'. There are also other forms including, 'ought to' and 'had better' which are more formal.

        People give advice when they think that there is something better than what will be done or have been done.
For stronger advice you can use 'have to' or 'must'. Example:

-You must see a doctor
-You have to take her to see that movie. She'll love it!

Here are some expressions to give advice:
Asking for Advice
Giving Advice.
·      Do you think I should join the class?
·       I think you should.
·      What would you do if you were me?
·       I'd sell the items if I were you.
·      Could you give me some advice?
·       You'd better tell your parents soon.
·      What would you advise?
·       I would recommend that you invest your money.
·      What do you suggest?
·      Maybe you should try someplace else.

·                Using suggest and recommend
             There are two ways which we can use 'recommend' and 'suggest':

             I suggest taking a holiday.
   I suggest (that) you take a holiday.
             I recommend going to bed earlier.
             I recommend (that) you go to bed earlier.

·                Using imperatives to give advice

             We can use imperative verbs + '-ing' to give advice. Let's look at some more examples:
             Start going to the gym.
  Stop drinking so much coke.
  Consider switching to brown bread and rice.
  Try cycling to work.
There are several different structures that you can use when giving advice:


This is probably the most common of the structures for giving advice. After should, and its negative - shouldn't - we use the base form of the infinitive of the verb:

You should wise up
We shouldn’t cheat

It is common to use 'I think' and 'I don’t think' with should:
I think you should put the answers back
She doesn't think they should use them

Had better :

This structure is common in spoken English and it is usually used in the contracted form. After had better, and its negative - had better not, we use the base form of the infinitive of the verb

You'd better return the answers to the lecturer
You'd better not tell anyone that you found them

If I were you

This version of the second conditional is often used when giving advice, especially in spoken English. Note the use of were with I in the first clause.
In the second clause, we use would - contracted to d - and wouldn’t.
After would and wouldn’t, we use the base form of the infinitive of the verb:

If I were you, I’d give them back to the lecturer
If I were you, I wouldn’t use the answers


This is the most formal of the structures used for giving advice, and so it isn't so common.
After ought, and its negative - ought not (oughtn't), we use the full infinitive of the verb:

You ought to contact the police
You ought not to cheat in exams



  1. (I think/I really think) you need to/must/should ...
  2. How about ...?
  3. It is usually a good idea to ...
  4. My suggestion/advice is (to) ...
  5. Why don't you ...?
  6. You could (try) ...
  7. You probably/definitely/really should ...


  1. Have you tried ...?
  2. I (would) (strongly) suggest/advise that ...
  3. If I was/were you, I'd ...
  4. In my experience, ... works really well.
  5. It's generally best/a good idea to...
  6. One idea is to ...
  7. One thing you could/should/have to do is ...
  8. The best/most important thing (to do) is to ...


  1. ... might work.
  2. ... would probably work.
  3. ... (always) works for me.
  4. If I was/were in your place, I'd ...
  5. If that happened to me/In that case/If I had that problem, I'd ...
  6. My (main/personal) recommendation is/would be ...
  7. You'd better ...
  8. In this (kind of) situation, I (would) always recommend/advise ...

Upper Intermediate

  1. (If I was/were) in that (that kind of) situation, I'd ...
  2. Have you thought about ...?
  3. If it was/were me, I'd ...
  4. Make sure you (don't) ...
  5. The sooner you ... the better.
  6. Whatever you do, ...
  7. Your only option is to ...
  8. You have no choice but to ...


  1. ... is worth a try.
  2. A (self-help) book I read recommends ...
  3. A piece of advice from ... that I'd like to pass on is to ...
  4. A wise man once said ...
  5. As the proverb says, ...
  6. I can't recommend ... strongly enough.
  7. You should ..., no doubt about it.
  8. It might be an old wives' tale, but ...