'Hearing the sound, they came out of the house'. In this sentence what is the part of speech of 'hearing'. In my opinion it is present participle but my book says it is gerund. Can anyone explain me how to differentiate between the two? All I know is that in "V1+ing + noun" format, it is a present participle if the noun is the doer of that action(e.g. running deer) otherwise not.

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    Present participle. Participle used to be a part of speech before adjectives were discovered. It is certainly not a gerund, so your book is wrong. Don't trust it. Gerunds are verbs that are the main verbs in gerund clauses, which are noun clauses that can be subjects or objects, like Leaving early is a good idea. But hearing the sound is not a subject or object, just an adverbial of circumstance, so calling it a participle is correct. Even more correct would be to call it a verb, which is what it is. Participle is just another verb form, like infinitive and past tense. Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 22:28
  • Thanks for your quick response, I appreciate it. I was getting very confused. Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 22:34
  • Finite verb: They heard the sound; they came out of the house. . . . Finite verb: When they heard the sound, they came out of the house. . . . Nonfinite verb (participle): Upon hearing the sound, they came out of the house. . . . Nonfinite verb (participle): Hearing the sound, they came out of the house. Verbs all. Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 3:19

1 Answer 1


It is a participle. You can tell this because it qualifies (describes) "they", the subject of the verb. Being a participle, it is a kind of adjective: a verbal adjective. that is, it is an adjective formed from a verb base - in this case, hear.

Now in the following sentence, hearing is a so-called gerund.

Hearing the sound was the most significant thing I experienced all day.

In this case hearing functions as a noun: a verbal noun. You can tell this because hearing is the subject of the main verb is. It could be the object of a verb.

I hate hearing the sound.

It is not always that easy, these are the simplest way to explain the difference between these two features.

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