Gerund I

To say it right at the beginning: there are not really three different gerunds. There is only one, which is - you guessed it - a verb with the ending -ing.
However, there are three different environments and usage patterns for gerunds and here comes number one.

You can take most verbs with the ending -ing and use them like a noun. This means, in a normal sentence they can function as a subject or as an object. Have a look at the following examples.

It is easier to sing than to play an instrument.

Singing is easier than playing an instrument.

It is much fun to swim.

Swimming is much fun.

To see is to believe.

Seeing is believing.

As you can see, this is all not very difficult. You can also see that in many cases a verb+'-ing' means the same like a 'to + infinitive' construction. This is also exactly how you should translate it into German if you can't find a suitable noun or don't want to use it.

Learning can be fun.

Lernen kann Spaß machen.

Learning English can be fun.

Englisch zu lernen kann Spaß machen.

Short prohibitions

A gerund can be used together with the word no or a negative verb phrase to express a prohibition. You very often find those on signs or posters.


No smoking.

No fishing.

Parking not allowed.

No littering.

Go back to the identifying -ing forms page.