Gerunds — Parts of speech, but not quite. They are a verb but act like a noun as part of the subject or object of a sentence. It is no wonder this grammatical structure is so confusing for students to understand and even trickier for many ESL teachers to teach! This post will offer a clearer explanation of their function and further resources for how to teach these structures with ease.
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What’s a gerund?
A gerund is a non-tense verb ending in –ing. It is not conjugated in any tense or inflected by any mood or person. It takes the same place in a sentence as a noun, subject of a sentence, object of some verbs and object of a preposition.
When we introduce a gerund in a phrase, we call it a gerundial phrase, Being healthy is my priority, for example.
What are Infinitives?
Like gerunds, infinitives are verbs in non-tense form preceded by the word to. They can act like subjects, objects or complements of sentences.
Infinitives do not act as the main verb in a sentence. Like gerunds, they can be followed by complements, modifiers or objects. A phrase introduced by an infinitive is called an infinitive phrase or an infinitival phrase.
Why Students Get Confused!
Students get confused easily because they have two verb forms that serve the same purpose in a sentence. They can also get confused with the –ing endings of main verbs in continuous tenses. These are not gerunds but present participle forms.
When teaching high beginners, it is best to introduce simple examples such as:
Cara enjoys spending time outdoors or
Cara would like to spend time outdoors.
Furthermore, it is important to introduce gerunds and infinitives by classifying them into different categories such as talking about likes/dislikes or preferences. Give students a variety of examples so they can begin to understand how gerunds and infinitives are used in context.
Activities for Teaching Gerunds and Infinitives
The You Can Teach Grammar book published by OnTESOL teacher trainers has more than 10 activities for teaching gerunds and infinitives!
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