What is the difference between a gerund and present participle? When should we use a gerund and when should we use a present participle ?

  • Gerund is used as a noun. Participle isn't.
    – sooeithdk
    Dec 29, 2015 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


The distinction between a participle and a gerund is troublesome. It looks as if the difference is to do with parts of speech or something similar. In fact, the real distinction has to do with the grammatical relations (syntactic functions).

In traditional grammar, a gerund is an -ing form of a verb that heads a phrase functioning as a:

  • Subject of a clause
  • Object of a verb
  • Complement of a preposition

In all other situations, an -ing form of the verb is considered a participle. Phrases headed by participles are often modifiers in clause or phrase structure.

Some modern grammars such as the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002) regard the distinction between gerunds and participles as unhelpful, because it blurs the line between what type of word the -ing form is and what job it is doing in the sentence. They use the term gerund-participle to refer to the type of word regardless of what job the phrase is doing in the larger sentence.

  • Sorry; downvoting. Duplicate x n. Dec 29, 2015 at 18:59
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    2002 doesn't sound very modern. Happy new year!!!
    – user140086
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:06
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    Yes, except that an -ing form derived from a verb can also be a derived noun -- neither gerund nor participle. "The rising of the moon."
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:14
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    Gerund-participle is a bad term. Progressive-participle would be better (even when applied to the noun form).
    – AmI
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:24
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    @BillJ, yes, I agree that "rising" in "the rising of the moon" is a noun. It's not a gerund or a participle, because those are both verbs, not nouns. Aside from the presence of "the", we can also look at whether a modifier would be an adjective (if "rising" is a noun) or an adverb (if "rising" is a gerund or participle). Compare "the rapid rising of the moon", "the rapidly rising moon", "the moon's rapid(ly) rising (surprised us)".
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:51

There is no difference. English only has -ing words. These are a completely regular inflectional form of the verb. And there is just one of these, not two.

"Gerunds" and "present participles" are meaninglesss relics from Latin grammar that do not apply to English.

No morphological distinction exists, and therefore they are the same word. It is not possible to use one instead of the other, nor vice versa, because these are not two different forms.

Therefore the answer to your question is that it does not matter. You cannot go wrong.

  • 'No morphological distinction exists, and therefore they are the same word.' is one opinion. There are authorities that consider intercategorial polysemes to be actually homonyms. And there are at least three schools of interpretation of the status of words between the noun and the verb ends of the N-V ing-gradience-or-is-it. Dec 29, 2015 at 18:53
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    This answer is nonsense.
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:16
  • This is hardly comprehensive .sorrry.
    – jahngir
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:27
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    @jahngir As has been pointed out to you, in today's grammar there is no distinction to be made.
    – BillJ
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:36
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    This answer is not nonsense. It merely notes that 'gerund' is a property not of the word, but of the use of the word. Since any event can be referenced as a noun phrase, and the linkage point of any event is its verb, any verb can be a subject noun. I personally prefer to reserve the term gerund only if the -ing word is a true topic (not part of a list); where it functions much like the infinitive (with nuance of progress versus habit).
    – AmI
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:39

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