For example in the following sentences, who is the doer and how can we be sure?

Swimming is good for him. -- If I swim, is it good for him?

Being elected president was a shock to him.

Having read the book once before makes me more prepared.

Being heavily committed to a course of action is likely to make an executive miss signs of incipient trouble.

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    The word you're looking for is subject, not doer. Not every predicate is an action. Gerunds frequently have their subjects deleted, when the speaker thinks the listener can figure out who the subject is from context. Speakers are not always correct about this. In the sentences you give, the subject of swimming is either him or Indefinite; the subject of being elected is him; the subject of having read is me; and the subject of being committed is either an executive or Indefinite. As to certainty, we can't be sure; we just have to do the best we can. – John Lawler Dec 10 '18 at 19:05
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    This is one of the many cases in English of ambiguous reference, which can only be resolved pragmatically, not by any rules of syntax. Consider Swimming is good for him vs. Hanging is too good for him. – Colin Fine Dec 10 '18 at 19:10
  • @JohnLawler @.ColinFine Thanks guys! This helps a lot – johnnyodonnell Dec 10 '18 at 19:44

If one wishes to come to peace with English gerunds one will need bite a bullet.

One will pray for forgiveness and accept that a gerund

ain't a verb.

An English gerund

is a noun.

Tuck this away deep within you; do not go out in public and announce this reality. You might be charged with heresy if you do. An English gerund does not need a "doer". It is a noun.

Swimming is good for him.

This sentence is no different than

Pie is good for him.

except for a trade in nouns. "Pie" needs no "doer". "Swimming" needs no "doer", it is only the name (noun) of an activity.

Come to peace with this or risk becoming a grammarian. My opinion is that one will be happier and saner with the acceptance that a gerund

ain't a verb.

I hope someone can explain this better than I; that is, without resort to mysticism that declares a gerund to be a verb that is a noun. One cannot even make a Trinity out of that.

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