Gerund, Verbal Noun, & Present Participle | Differences

Gerund vs. verbal nouns and present participles

Difference between gerund noun, verbal noun, and present participle

Gerund and verbal noun are confusing because of similarities with each other and also look similar to verbs (present participle).

This article will explain:

·         How to identity a verb in a sentence

·         How to identify a gerund noun in a sentence?

·         How to identify a verbal noun in a sentence?

·         Examples of gerund noun and verbal nouns in sentences

·         Main differences between Gerund and verbal noun

Look at the below sentences that how they look similar in a sentence.

1.    Julia is singing loudly? (verb)

2.    Singing loudly is bad for throat. (Gerund)

3.    The loud singing is not good for throat.  (Verbal noun)

In above sentence the word singing was repeated in all sentences. Now we will explain that how can you recognize a gerund or a verbal noun in a sentence.

‘Singing’ as a verb

In first sentence, “Julia is singing loudly”, the word singing is clearly a verb with –ing form. It is rule is English that a verb with –ing form always will be followed by a helping verb like is, am, are, was, were, etc. Secondly, as we know that verbs are modified by adverbs and in first sentence verb ‘singing’ is modified with adverb ‘loudly’.

‘Singing’ as a gerund noun

In second sentence, “Singing loudly is bad for throat”, the word singing is not a verb because we have read that verb with -ing form are always followed by helping verb.  So, here it is a gerund. Gerund also have verb like qualities but they are in category of noun. Gerund are modified by an adverb because of its verb-like qualities. If a word with -ing form is not followed by any helping verb and an adverb is modifying it, its mean it is surely a gerund. 

‘Singing’ as a verbal noun

In third sentence, “The loud singing is not good for throat”, the word singing is a verbal noun. Though, its name is verbal noun but it does not have verb like qualities. Contrary to its name, it has noun-like qualities. Therefore an adjective is modifying it in the sentence. If a word with -ing form is not followed by any helping verb and an adjective or determiner is modifying it, its mean; it is surely a verbal noun.

verbal noun

Some more examples of gerunds, verbal nouns, and present participles

Some more examples are here to understand the difference between gerund and verbal noun.  Focus on highlighted word to recognize its nature of use.

(a)  Julia is writing very nicely. (Verb)

(b)  Julia’s writing is very nice. (Gerund)

(c)  This nice writing belongs to Julia. (Verbal noun)

(d)  Julia is drawing a dog. (Verb)

(e)  The bad drawing of dog is horrifying me. (Verbal noun)

(f)   Julia loves drawing. (Gerund)

(g)  Dog attacks on cats. (Verb)

(h)  Dog’s forceful attack killed the cat. (Verbal noun)

(i)    Dog was hiding behind the tree to attack forcefully on the cat. (Infinitive form just like gerund)


Main Differences between gerund noun and verbal nouns

Derivation of gerund and verbal nouns

Both nouns are derived from verb with alteration in a word. We make gerund noun by adding –ing with a verb as we use in present participle with-ing form.

Examples of gerund:

·         Read to reading

·         Sing to singing

·         Walk to walking

Verbal nouns are also derived from verbs but they have different adaptation form like adding a suffix. Some time there is no change in word but the use of word is different in a sentence that has noun like properties.

Examples of verbal nouns:

·         Arrive to arrival

·         Protect to protection

·         Decide to decision

·         Attack to attack

Properties: Gerund vs. Verbal Noun

Both gerund and verbal nouns are derived from verbs but both have different properties. Gerund have verb-like properties and verbal nouns have noun-like properties.

Subject or object

Gerund can be used as a subject or an object. Look at the example:

·         Do you love singing?

·         Singing loudly is bad for throat.

But, verbal nouns do not take any object.  Look at the examples

·         The loud Singing is not good for throat.


Plural form

Verbal nouns have plural form like all other common nouns but gerund do not have plural form.

Modified by adjective/adverb

Verbal nouns have the properties of noun therefore they are modified by an adjective. Whereas, gerunds have verb like properties, so they are modified by an adverb.

More key differences between gerund and verbal nouns

·         Determiners or adjectives are used to modify verbal nouns.

·         Adverbs are used to modify gerunds.

·         Verbal nouns sometime require preposition or a prepositional phrase.

·         Gerunds do not require preposition or a prepositional phrase

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