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what's the difference between a gerund and a participle?

what's the difference between a gerund and a participle?

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Kelsie T. | Latin Teacher and Tutor - MAT and BA in Latin, 14+ yearsLatin Teacher and Tutor - MAT and BA in ...
4.8 4.8 (15 lesson ratings) (15)

Hey April,

Gerunds and participles both derive from verbs. However,

-A gerund is a verbal noun. As a noun, it stands alone in the sentence.

In English, gerunds always end in -ing (walking, thinking, sleeping).

Again, gerunds are nouns. They stand alone.

All of these are gerunds, because they stand alone. "Walking is a great form of exercise. Thinking about statistics makes my head hurt. I love sleeping."

-A participle is a verbal adjective. As an adjective, it must describe something else in the sentence.

In English, participles end in -en (fallen), -ed (killed), -t (slept), or -ing (thinking).

*Notice that the -ing ending can indicate either a gerund or participle. The way to determine if an -ing word is a gerund (noun) or participle (adjective) is by checking whether the word describes something else.

All of these are participles, because they describe something else: "I bought walking shoes today. Put on your thinking caps! Sleeping pills are terrible for you." 

Other, non -ing participles are fairly easy to identify: they describe another word, and they come from verbs. 

All of these are non -ing participles: "The trapped fly buzzed about inside the jar. There are far too many tales about fallen angels. The fundraiser, begun too late, was doomed to fail."

Sorry, this is a bit late in coming. In any case, I hope you find it useful!




Robert A. | The Tutor Who Will Help You "Get it."The Tutor Who Will Help You "Get it."
4.9 4.9 (93 lesson ratings) (93)


A gerund is a verb that acts like a noun. For example: Hiking is a verb, but when used as the subject of a sentence, it acts like a noun, e.g. "Hiking is something I do in the summer."

A participle is an adjective made from a verb. Again, Hiking is a verb, but when used to describe a noun, it becomes an adjective, e.g. "The hiking trail was steep."

I hope this helps.


Sally E. | Certified Dual Ivy Latin/Greek tutorCertified Dual Ivy Latin/Greek tutor
5.0 5.0 (27 lesson ratings) (27)
I don't know your age, but if you continue to be interested in issues such as this, consider taking some Latin (in college, possibly?)  Since Latin does not replicate English's maddening habit of using the same forms for gerund and participle, this all starts to make more sense through the lens of a different language.
Emily T. | *Learning Is Easier Than You Think**Learning Is Easier Than You Think*
4.7 4.7 (3 lesson ratings) (3)

A gerund ends in -ing, and functions as a noun.

A participle ends in -t,ed,en,d,ing, and functions as an adjective.


But can you tell how find the difference when it comes in a sentence by giving an example
Jonathan S. | Passionate and Compassionate Psychology and English TutorPassionate and Compassionate Psychology ...
I agree with what others have said that a gerund is an -ing noun and a present participle is an -ing adjective. In a nutshell, a gerund is a noun disguised as a verb, while a present participle is an adjective disguised as a verb. For example, the following -ing word is a gerund: "His walking was very slow." It would be no different from saying: "His feet were very slow at walking." It is more easy to comprehend that the word "feet" is a noun than the word "walking." However, just because it seems like a verb and comes from the derivative of a verb (to walk) does not necessarily make it a verb. It depends on the context of the sentence. A good way to determine what part of speech the word "walking" belongs to is by looking at the other words next to it. For instance, look at the word "his" that precedes it, and realize that any word that follows a possessive pronoun such as "his" is almost always a noun. I may also add that a present participle often follows a to be verb, known either as a present progressive or a past progressive. For example, this is a present progressive: "I am walking." This is a past progressive: "I was walking." Both are examples of participles because they are both adjectives, describing the noun "I."
Dorota G. | Fordham University ESL teacher using technology and old schoolFordham University ESL teacher using tec...
5.0 5.0 (10 lesson ratings) (10)

Gerunds and present participles look identical,  and that's the reason they may be confused.

 I enjoy walking. ( The gerund "walking" follows another verb )


Walking is good exercise. ( The gerund "walking" is used as a subject, and thus fulfills the role of a noun)

Present participles function differently. Study the example below.

Walking home, I saw a friend of mine. 

The above sentence will mean the same as:

While I was walking home, I saw a friend of mine.  


While walking home, I saw a friend of mine.

In addition, some adjectives look like present participles: interesting, embarrassing, etc.

David S. | English, ESL, Spanish, reading, and writing tutorEnglish, ESL, Spanish, reading, and writ...
5.0 5.0 (183 lesson ratings) (183)

A gerund and a participle can look very similar, but that are quite different. A gerund is a verbal, a verb form not functioning as a verb in the sentence, that ends in -ing and functions as a noun. For example, running is my favorite hobby. In this sentence, is is the verb, and running, functioning as a noun, is the subject. Gerunds are not always subjects, but they are always nouns, and as nouns, they can have any function in the sentence that a noun can have. In other words, they can function in the sentence as subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, objective compliments, retained objects, predicate nominatives, appositives, and objects of prepositions. For example, my friend enjoys running. In this sentence, enjoys is the verb, friend is the subject, and running a direct object. 

While gerunds are always nouns, participles, while they can end in -ing like gerunds, have more endings and are always adjectives. Participles can have any of the endings of present and past participles. The present participle ending is -ing like gerunds, but the past participle endings are more diverse including -ed, -d, -en, and -t. While the endings of participles are different from the endings of gerunds, the usage is also different because participles always function as adjectives. For example, the girl sitting by the door is waiting to see you. Sitting is an adjective describing which boy. Therfore, sitting is a participle and not a gerund because it functions as an adjective. Another example, teacher easily notice assignments written hastily.  Written is a participle functioning as an adjective describing which assignments.

A contrast of Gerunds and Participles:

The boy was reprimanded for chewing gum in class. In this sentence, chewing is the object of the preposition of. Therefore, chewing is functioning as a noun and is a gerund.

The boy chewing gum in class was reprimanded. In this sentence, chewing is describing which boy. Therefore, chewing is functioning as an adjective and is a participle.


Elizabeth G. | Full-time Professor of French, ESL and English at L.A. City CollegeFull-time Professor of French, ESL and E...
4.7 4.7 (3 lesson ratings) (3)

A gerund is a special kind of noun that we make from a verb. Any verb can be made into a gerund by adding the ending -ing. Look at the following examples:

Verb            Gerund

run              running

work           working

Because a gerund is a noun, a gerund can do anything that a noun can do within a sentence. A gerund can be the subject in a sentence, the direct object in a sentence, the object of a preposition in a sentence, and the complement of the verb "be" in a sentence. Here are 4 examples of this:

1. Running is good cardiovascular exercise. (subject in sentence)

2. Many people don't enjoy working at their jobs. (direct object in sentence)

3. Elena is excited about working at her new job. (object of the preposition "about.")

4.  One of the most popular exercises is running. (complement of verb "be.")

A gerund is a noun. It does not describe another word in the sentence. Think of it as an "activity."


A participle is very different from a gerund. While a gerund works as a noun, a participle works as an adjective. The purpose of an adjective is to describe a noun or a pronoun. Therefore, a participle always describes a noun or a pronoun in the same sentence. There are two kinds of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles end in -ing, so these kinds of participles are sometimes confused with gerunds because they look exactly the same. A present participle is made the same way as a gerund, that is, by taking a verb and adding -ing. Therefore, the words "running" and "working" listed above can also be used as participles. However, you can see that the way that they are used in sentences is very different. Here are examples of these words used as participles:

Running as fast as she could, Helen tried to catch the bus.

The dogs seemed to have endless energy, running around the park for hours.

Working late into the night, Paul was able to finish his essay.

The men closed all the lanes of the freeway, working to repair the damaged areas.

Participles may look similar to gerunds but their function in a sentence is very different. The job of a participle is to give information or describe another word in the sentence. This other words will always be a noun or a pronoun because participles act like adjectives and adjectives  describe nouns or pronouns. You can put a participle before the noun it describes and it makes sense:

"running dogs"

"working men"

In conclusion, if the -ing word works like a noun in the sentence; in other words, you could imagine that it is an activity for which you could substitute the word "it," the -ing word is a gerund. "Running is good excerice." "It is good exercise."

On the other hand, if the -ing word works like an adjective in the sentence; in other words, you see another word in the sentence, a noun or a pronoun that it describes or refers to, the -ing word is a participle.  Participles add descriptive information to nouns and pronouns found in the same sentence.


Ann B. | English & Writing TutorEnglish & Writing Tutor

Gerund - turns verb into noun by adding -ing.  Example - to park.  I find parking is much easier at the plaza than the mall.  "Parking" is a noun in this sentence. 

Participle - turns verb into adjective - Example: to park - It's tough to find good "parking" spaces at the mall. "Parking" is an adjective describing spaces (the noun).