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Wiktionary shows this:

-ing

Used to form nouns or noun-like words (or elements of noun phrases) from verbs, denoting the act of doing something, an action, or the embodiment of an action.

  • As true nouns.
    • My hearing is not good.
    • I have had several meetings with him.
  • As gerunds.
    • Smoking is bad for your health.
    • She has a habit of sleeping late.
    • I like meeting people.

Used to form nouns denoting materials or systems of objects which are used or employed in an action, or considered collectively.

  • Roofing is material that is used to roof.
  • Clothing is material with which one is clothed.
  • The piping is a system of pipes considered collectively.

What is the difference between these 3 examples? Why is "Smoking is bad" the smoking a gerund and not a noun? The true noun makes sense to me, but at the same time what is that, how does it compare to the gerund? The last one is also a noun, how does that compare to a gerund? How/why is a gerund not a noun?

It says a gerund "is a verb that’s acting as a noun... but it doesn’t stop being a verb...". But it still functions as a verb in some ways? I don't follow.

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  • I am not convinced that the Wikitionary entry is accurate: roofing, clothing and piping appear to be mass nouns. The gerund uses the root form of the verb and adds the suffix -ing". For example, the meaning of the gerund "thinking" is "the action of the verb "to think"."
    – Greybeard
    Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 23:54
  • 1
    Two similarities between gerunds and verbs is that they can take direct objects and be modified by adverbs: "Smoking cigarettes daily is bad for your health." Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 23:58
  • While I don't see the difference much, the end is the same: nouns. Smoke is bad for your health, too. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 0:23
  • 3
    Forget the term 'gerund'. All you need to know is whether the word is a verb or noun. But there are cases of ambiguity: in, for example, "Smoking is bad for your health", "smoking" is ambiguous between a verb and a noun, though verb preferred. Noun interpretation can be forced by adjectival premodification, as in "Even occasional smoking is bad for you".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 12:14
  • 1
    Let's forget both 'gerund' and 'subjunctive', then. They're both troublesome remnants of previous universes. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 16:43

1 Answer 1

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  1. Smoking is bad for your health.
  2. Clothing is material with which one is clothed.

The difference between these two should be obvious if you try to add an object to the verbs "smoke" and "clothe":

  1. Smoking cigarettes is bad for your health.
  2. Clothing people is material with which one is clothed.

(3) makes perfect sense, because "smoking" is here being used just as a form of the verb "to smoke." (4) does not make any sense, because "clothing" here is not being used as a form of the verb "to clothe."

Of course, you can use "clothing" as a gerund of "to clothe," but this is quite uncommon:

Clothing the poor is an important way to help them.

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  • From Collins: <<The -ing form of a verb, i.e. the present participle, can be used as a noun. This type of noun is a verbal noun and it can be used in all the places that a noun can be used, but still keeps some characteristics of the verb. It is sometimes called the gerund. The screaming of the brakes terrified me...>> 'Gerund' is ill-defined. See JL's comment above. Commented May 6, 2023 at 11:45
  • How does one analyse say 'He has developed the disturbing habit of snoring'? Commented May 6, 2023 at 11:51
  • @EdwinAshworth I avoided bringing up verbal nouns because "clothing" here isn't a verbal noun either. A verbal noun would be: "His clothing of impoverished people in the city demonstrated his generous character."
    – alphabet
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 12:14
  • (This usage is very awkward since we typically use "clothing" in the ordinary noun sense, not as a gerund or verbal noun.)
    – alphabet
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 12:15

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