Gerund vs Present participle: What’s the difference?

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Gerund vs present participle
Gerund vs present participle
Gerund and present participle difference

Do you, sometimes, get confused between a gerund and a present participle?

Most people do. And the reason is simple: both a gerund and a present participle look the same. Both a gerund and a present participle are a progressive form of a verb (V1+ing) that function differently.

What is the difference between a gerund and a present participle?

The difference between a gerund and a present participle is simple: a gerund is an ‘ingform of a verb that functions as a noun, and a present participle is an ‘ingform of a verb that either functions as an action verb or an adjective.

Just focus on the following two things to find out the difference between a gerund and a present participle:

  • If an ing form of a verb (V1+ing) acts as a noun, call it a gerund.
  • If an ing form of a verb (V1+ing) acts as a verb or an adjective, call it a present participle.

Let’s take an ‘ing’ form of a verb and see how it can be both a gerund (noun) and a present participle (verb or adjective).

TEACHING: it can be a gerund or a present participle.

Examples of ‘teachingas a gerund (noun)

  • Teaching is my passion. (subject)
    (The action is teaching is not happening in the sentence; we are just talking about it. Teaching is working as a noun.)
  • I love teaching. (object of the verb)
  • Everyone is not interested in teaching. (object of the preposition ‘in’)
  • Your teaching is amazing. (object of the possessive adjective ‘your’)
  • My love is teaching. (subject complement)

In all the above examples, ‘teaching’ is working as a noun.

Examples of ‘teachingas a present participle (adjective or verb):

  • It is a teaching job.
    (Teaching is working as an adjective here. It is modifying the noun job, telling us what type of job it is)
  • He is teaching school students right now.
    (Here, the action of teaching is happening. Teaching is working as an action verb.)

More examples of present participles:

  • Look at the burning train. (burning = adjective, modifying the noun ‘train’)
  • The girl dancing on the stage is my sister. (dancing= adjective, modifying the noun ‘girl’)
  • This movie is exciting. (dancing= adjective, modifying the noun ‘girl’)
  • She is burning her bag. (action verb)
  • We were dancing last night. (action verb)

Positions of a gerund and a present participle

This is one more way to find out the difference between a gerund and a present participle. Look at the position of a progressive form of a verb to find out if it’s a gerund or a present participle.

Gerund positions in a sentence

  1. Before a main verb (action or linking).
    (As the subject)
  2. After an action verb (transitive).
    (As the object of a verb)
  3. After a linking verb.
    (As the subject complement)
  4. After a preposition.
    (As the object of a preposition)
  5. After a possessive adjective.
    (As the object of a possessive adjective)

Gerund examples:

  • Dancing makes me happy. (Before the main verb ‘makes‘)
  • I hate dancing. (After the main verb ‘hate‘)
  • I am not thinking about dancing. (After the preposition ‘about‘)
  • My passion is dancing. (After the linking verb is‘)
  • Everyone loves your dancing. (After the possessive adjective your)

Position of a present participle

  1. Just before a noun
  2. Just after a noun
  3. After a linking verb (main verb)

Examples:

  • Look at the burning train. (before the noun modified)
  • The girl dancing on the stage is my sister. (after the noun modified)
  • This movie is exciting. ((after the linking verb)

Note: there is no tip to find the difference between a gerund and a present participle when they are followed by a linking verb. You just need to look at their function in that case. A gerund (noun) will rename the subject, and a present participle (adjective) will modify the subject.

  • My passion is dancing. (renaming the subject ‘passion‘)
  • Ashish is exciting. (modifying the subject)

It can be an action verb too.

  • Ashish is dancing. (action verb)

Gerund vs Present participle difference chart

Basic of differenceGerundPresent participle
DefinitionA gerund in English is a progressive form (ing) of a verb that works as a noun in a sentence.A present participle in English is a verb form that works as an adjective or as a verb in a sentence.
TypesA gerund can play the following roles:

1. The subject
2. The object of a verb
3. The object of a preposition
4. The object of a possessive adjective
5. The subject complement
A present participle does have any types.
FunctionsA gerund functions only as a noun.

ExTeaching is my passion.
A present participle can function either as a verb or as an adjective.

Examples:
1. He is teaching English. (verb)
2. I hate teaching jobs. (adjective)
PositionA gerund can take the following places:

1. Before the main verb (linking or action verb)
2. After an action verb (transitive)
3. After a preposition
4. After a possessive adjective
5. After the main verb (linking verb)

Examples:

1. Teaching is fun. (before the main verb)
2. I love teaching. (after an action verb)
3. He is passionate about teaching. (after a preposition)
4. Your teaching is amazing. (after a possessive adjective)
5. My passion is dancing. (after the main verb)
A present participle can take the following places:

1. Before a noun
2. After a noun
3. After a main verb (linking verb)

Examples:

1. It was a motivating movie. (adjective)
2. Look at the burning train. (adjective)
3. The movie was exciting. (adjective)
4. He is motivating the class. (verb)
Difference between gerund and present participle

Another trick to find out the difference between a gerund and a present participle

A present participle, apart from coming just before or just after the noun it modifies, comes next to a linking verb, and a gerund comes before a main verb, after an action verb, after a preposition, or after a possessive adjective.

Related lessons to check out:

My YouTube videos on the topic:


5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, thanks for a great work, some mistakes to edit 1) in the first table “examples of position of PP 2&3.
    2) “This movie is exciting. (dancing= adjective, modifying the noun ‘girl’)” copied from previous example

    Best regards

  2. “Everyone is not interested in teaching” looks odd. It means no one is interested in teaching. A more usual-looking sentence would be “Not everyone is interested in teaching”.

    Regarding “It is a teaching job”, I would say that “teaching” is a gerund here. This is similar to “it’s an engineering job” or “it’s IT engineering” job. Engineering is clearly a noun, as is IT. And “teaching” in “it’s a teaching job” will also general be noun. If you were to interpret “teaching” as an adjective, that would mean that the job itself teaches, which is clearly not what is normally meant. The job merely involves or comprises the activity of teaching, it doesn’t do the teaching. Something similar can be seen with “running coach”. It generally means someone who coaches other people in running, not a coach who is running.

    • ‘Everyone is not interested in teaching’ is a perfectly fine sentence. It simply means that it’s not true for everyone; some might wanna do it.
      ‘Teaching’ in ‘It is a teaching job’ is not a noun (gerund). We can’t call it a gerund as it’s not working as a noun. All it’s doing is giving information (modifying) the noun ‘job’, which makes it an adjective (present participle). The same is with the ‘engineering’ sentence.

      With your logic, the sentence (I want a school bag) means I want a bag that schools, which it does not. Here, the word ‘school’ modifies the noun ‘bag’ by showing its purpose: for school. And understand that not all words (progressive form of verbs) can be used this way.

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