• Savings
  • Shavings
  • Drippings

Are these gerunds?

I found some resources (below) that don't seem to provide definitive answers.

  • After Jespersen, how's it still not definitive? "It can form a plural: his comings and goings, sayings and doings ..."
    – Kris
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 5:19
  • 1
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 16:49
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How can I prove a word is a noun? 'Gerund' is ill-defined: different grammarians and pundits have used it in different and conflicting ways over the years. CGEL lumps many ing-forms into the 'gerund-participial'; I prefer the CoGEL model which splits usages into different degrees of nouniness / verbiness. Perforce somewhat arbitrary, but then so are the other analyses. But the term 'gerund' is best ditched after GCSEs have been negotiated. // Quirk would have 'paintings' etc Commented Apr 6 at 11:38
  • as being absolutely at the nounal end of the continuum, as like prototypical nouns they form regular plurals with -s, which plurals take a plural verb form ... etc. Her paintings/etchings/sculptures are glorious. The term traditionally used: deverbal nouns. Commented Apr 6 at 11:47

3 Answers 3


This is so confusing, that if I placed any item in the wrong category, please correct it for me! However, do not censor any of the sentences.

Three types of English words ending with "ing":

  • present participle
  • gerund
  • verbal noun

Present participles

  1. can be used as adjectives.

    • Running dogs don't die.
    • Could you get your fucking feet off my couch?
    • The painting professionals are painting the house.
  2. are present activities that can describe the state of perpetrator of the activity

    • They are running
    • The cows are coming home
    • The gravy is dripping in the oven.
    • The painting professionals are painting the house.
    • She was painting Mona Lisa.


  1. They are a noun form. They are not used as adjectives.

    • She is very good at fucking.
    • They enjoy smoking.
    • I enjoy swimming and painting.
  2. They can be transitive to a direct object. But they are non-prepositional to the object.

    • They like painting trees.
    • Painting professionals like painting professionals. = Painting professionals like to paint professionals.
    • They enjoy smoking weed.
    • Mrs Gujeratnam's hosting a party is exciting her students.
    • She enjoys painting Mona Lisa.
  3. They can be a possession of the perpetrator.

    • I appreciate your walking my dog.
    • He loves her fucking his feet.
    • The painting professionals' painting professionals are painting professionals off the street.
    • Mrs Gujeratnam's hosting a party is exciting her students.
    • Her swimming is very versatile.
    • Her painting Mona Lisa is her enjoying life.

Verbal nouns

They are
  1. finalized derivatives of gerunds and participles.

    • They sold me a fake painting.
    • Please put the bowl of gravy drippings in the freezer.
    • The "Fucking" is a pornographic movie.
    • Look at all your shavings in the sink. What a mess!
    • I have $3 million in my bank savings.
    • The gasket is shielded by a steel housing.
  2. Cannot be transitive to a direct object, but requires a preposition

    • Da Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa is worth half a billion dollars.
    • The gasket is shielded by a steel housing compartment.
  3. They are usable as adjectives but only due to their finalized verbal nouns.

    • The dripping pan in the oven is rusty.
    • The swimming pool is open to public.
    • I have $3 million in my savings bank account.

Gerunds again

There are two modes of gerunds:

  1. adverbial gerunds, modifiable by adverbs.

    • Their rowing quickly is exciting the crowd.
  2. adjectival gerunds, modifiable by adjectives.

    • Their quick running saved the day and won them a medal.
  • There are gerunds which are not verbal nouns. There are verbal nouns that are not gerunds. All verbal nouns due to progressing participation (ending with "ing") are gerunds. Commented May 14, 2014 at 8:09
  • I restored some items censored by Andrew Leach. I corrected some of his mistakes in his editing/censoring. Commented Apr 7 at 2:00

They are verbal nouns, i.e. ones to which an aura of verbiness still clings because of the fact that a particular action or process was necessary to bring them into existence. (For more info, see here, and/or Google "verbal noun".)

  • 3
    Gerunds do function as nouns, including as verbal nouns. So the question remains "are they gerunds?" per OP.
    – Kris
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 5:06
  • @Kris - You're quite right. I neglected to mention that they are nouns derived from gerunds.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 5:07

No they are not gerunds, and one clear indication is that they can be pluralized, which means they are actually nouns. Gerunds refer to the act of performing the verb itself, and cannot be pluralized, nor modified by the article ("the") or adjectives. The last characteristic is another way to distinguish between gerunds and pure verbal nouns.


I was tired from shaving the wood.

Dripping occasionally is unavoidable.

I heard the tap's dripping. [Some use "tap dripping" but it is less formal.]

I look forward to your visiting my family. [Some use "you visiting ..." but it is less formal.]

Kindness is helping others in need.

Forming gerunds is simple.

Saving for the future is prudent.

Not gerunds

I got tired shaving the wood. [participle modifying "I"]

I have plenty of wood shavings. [concrete noun modified by "wood"]

Occasional dripping is unavoidable. [pure verbal noun modified by "occasional"]

I heard the dripping tap. [participle modifying "tap"]

I was just helping. [participle that is part of the verb "was helping"]

The forming of gerunds is simple. [pure verbal noun modified by "the"]

Having savings for the future is prudent. [concrete noun]

You might want to look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund#Gerunds_in_English for more details and examples.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.