How to modify gerunds when they are objects?


A question about gerunds really confuses me:

Is it true when gerunds are objects, we can't make them work as nouns?

For example, we can't say:

"I really enjoy free swimming!"


"My teeth are worth deep cleaning?"

But I have seen some titles like "The skillful defusing of bombs is XXXX" or "The dog hates the singing of its owner" Are there any mistakes?


Posted 2016-07-19T00:39:40.127

Reputation: 598

4Some people have misled you. – deadrat – 2016-07-19T01:51:02.073

From this link, emphasis mine: "*A gerund ... is a noun* formed from a verb by adding -ing." What do you mean by "can't make [gerunds] work as nouns"?

– Lawrence – 2016-07-19T05:34:07.250

@Lawrence I'm not certain I'd take as the last word here. A gerund is lexically a verb: it's inflected from a verb base and it can take an object like a verb. Both very non-noun kind of things. Nouns are regularly inflected for number and the possessive, and they take determinatives. Gerunds, not so much. It's perhaps better to say that gerunds perform the same functions in a sentence that noun phrases do. – deadrat – 2016-07-19T06:08:45.460

@deadrat I didn't notice the top-level domain :) . From ODO then: "A verb form which functions as a noun ...". This is very much in line with your comment. Either way (ODO's or yours), gerunds "work as nouns" by definition. So my question to the OP still stands - in what way "can't [we] make [gerunds] work as nouns"? Or more strongly, in the event that a gerund is (or more accurately, refers to) an "object" (i.e. definitely functions as a noun / noun phrase), why does the OP say they can't make it "work as [a] noun"?

– Lawrence – 2016-07-19T06:22:39.050

@Lawrence Gerunds certainly do the work of nouns, so I don't understand that part of the OP either. The only examples of the alleged not working is taking adjectival modifiers. – deadrat – 2016-07-19T06:34:44.270

But I'm just confused...when can I use gerunds as nouns...if there is no objects after gerunds, can I use it as nouns? I have seen many words:free shipping, online shopping – moyeea – 2016-07-19T16:56:14.350

@moyeea There are no gerunds involved in free shipping or in online shipping. Therefore you are not using a gerund as a noun there. What you have is an -ing word that’s a deverbal noun. It is not a gerund. Gerunds are always verbs, although you can use gerund phrases as noun phrases. – tchrist – 2016-07-19T21:53:35.187

what do you mean by deverbal noun? Why I saw many grammar definations say they are nominal gerund? – moyeea – 2016-07-20T00:29:36.757

"Deverbal" means "coming from a verb". The grammar definitions you have seen are (ready? you will need to learn this) WRONG. As Greg has been trying to point out. English grammar sites are full of incorrect information, and should not be trusted. For instance, a gerund is not a noun. A gerund is a verb form that heads a gerund clause. A gerund clause containing a gerund can be used as a noun or an object, but not a gerund, which is a verb. Sorry, but you have been misled. – John Lawler – 2016-07-30T16:11:51.220



Gerunds are not nouns. Gerund phrases are noun phrases, but that is quite different. Since gerunds are not nouns, but are instead verbs, if they are modified, the modifier must be an adverb. Since there are nouns derived from verbs in English by adding the suffix -ing to a verb, the situation is confusing, but these nouns in -ing are not gerunds.

In your example

"The skillful defusing of bombs is XXXX"

"defusing" is a noun derived from the verb "defuse", and we can tell that "defusing" is a noun by its being preceded by an article, "the", by its being modified by the adjective "skillful", and by the fact that the logical direct object "bombs" has to be made into a prepositional phrase with "of".

Although this is not an example of a gerund, there is a gerund form of this:

"Skillfully defusing bombs is XXXX"  

where the gerund "defusing" is shown to be a verb by the facts that it is not preceded by an article, it is modified by an adverb rather than an adjective, and it takes a direct object (which nouns do not do).

Greg Lee

Posted 2016-07-19T00:39:40.127

Reputation: 722

Thanks very much for your help! But why people can say:The decisions need careful planing? – moyeea – 2016-07-19T12:14:59.350

In your example, "planning" is a noun, not a gerund. Since it's a noun, it can be modified by the adjective "careful". (The gerund form would be "The decisions need planning carefully", which is of doubtful grammaticality.) – Greg Lee – 2016-07-19T14:25:44.733

Thanks very much! That is what I wanna ask...If the gerund doesn't have a object. Can we use it as a noun? Otherwise how to explain online shopping combined shipping? – moyeea – 2016-07-19T15:13:19.703

2Gerunds are not nouns. However, although there are many differences between nouns and verbs, sometimes you can't tell whether a specific word is a noun or a verb. If you start with a gerund, then change the example by removing anything that shows it's a verb, it doesn't get changed into a noun -- you just can't tell any longer. – Greg Lee – 2016-07-19T18:30:59.760

So you mean online shopping shopping is not a gerund? – moyeea – 2016-07-20T00:31:01.860

"online shopping" is a compound noun. ("shopping online" is a gerund.) Note it is modified with an adjective, "speedy online shopping", but not with an adverb, *"speedily online shopping". – Greg Lee – 2016-07-20T17:12:01.283

Thanks very much sir. But when can we use thers verbal nouns? I mean can we say spend time on online shopping, or spend time in online shopping. Besides, can a single word be a verbal noun( without definative words) like swimming horse-riding is a verbal noun or not? – moyeea – 2016-07-22T00:29:01.357

What does "thers verbal nouns" mean? – Greg Lee – 2016-07-22T07:17:12.803

Some people call them verbal nouns. like offer free shipping( shipping is a verbal noun because it has an adjective)can we say "prefer the cooking of this restaurant?" – moyeea – 2016-07-22T19:30:55.737

1Your latest examples have nouns derived from verbs, but they are nouns and not verbs. Calling them "verbal nouns" invites confusion. We can use nouns that are derived from verbs where we can use nouns (since that is what they are) and when there is some reasonable interpretation involving a sentence using the verb from which the noun is derived. I prefer the cooking of a certain restaurant when I prefer to eat what [S that restaurant cooks]. – Greg Lee – 2016-07-22T21:12:58.520


Gerunds can definitely be objects. All of those sentences are correct English.

Allan Burleson

Posted 2016-07-19T00:39:40.127


I don't think the OP disputes that gerunds can be objects. He was just told that when they appear as objects, they can't be modified. – deadrat – 2016-07-19T05:15:57.657