Gerunds and Present Participles


The ‘-ing’ words

Now the difference between

gerunds and present participles

Gerunds which mean verbs with ‘- ing’ that take the form of nouns and adjectives.

Present participles, which are also verbs with ‘-ing’ but function as a ‘verb’.

Present participle is formed by adding the suffix –ing to the base form of the verb.

The present participle is used as follows:

1.1: As a verb.

The baby is crying

1.2: As an adjective.

The crying baby,

 in which case the participle functions as an adjective

(the crying baby = the baby who is crying = the baby who cries).

1.3: As a modifier.

The modifier is a special kind of adjective – being a word (or expression) which normally belongs to a part of speech other than adjective but which is used attributively as an adjective (i.e. before the noun or substantive that it qualifies).

 Thus we say a beauty contest

Where beauty, normally a noun, is used in the noun form rather than in the adjective form, beautiful; and where beauty is used attributively, never predicatively, as in a contest that is beauty.


a sitting room (where sitting is attributive) does not carry the usual meaning of “a room that is sitting” (where sitting is predicative), but instead is “a room that is furnished for sitting and relaxing in”. Here the participle sitting, used attributively and conveying a special sense is a modifier.

Other examples where the present participle functions as a modifier:

 calling card (not a card that calls but a business card);

smoking room (not a room that smokes but a room where smoking is allowed);

walking distance (not a distance that walks but a distance that is easily covered by walking);

walking stick (not a stick that walks but “a stick carried or used as a support when walking”

witching hour (not the hour that bewitches but “midnight, regarded as the time when witches are supposedly active”

2. Gerunds

Gerunds are commonly known as verbal nouns.

(cutting, jogging, selling, swimming, walking).

Gerunds, unlike present participles, can function as nouns (walking is a good exercise)

 and, like nouns, they may be qualified by descriptive adjectives (slow walking is a good exercise).


Uncle Teng



  1. evira said

    Thank you so much for the explanation, uncle Teng. 🙂
    Actually, I still don’t get it about gerund v present participle. I have example sentences from a song that I’ve just quoted:
    ‘reliving the mistake she’s made’ and ‘I’m getting restless looking at you’. Can we say that the first sentence is gerund and the last is present participle? or am I right?

    Evira, Indonesia

    • Uncle Teng said

      Now, look at your sentence.
      Yes, You’re absolutely right.
      Any questions, You are welcome

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