I woke with gerunds on my mind

7 thoughts on “I woke with gerunds on my mind”

  1. Generally speaking there is a difference between I write (usually, often, sometimes… but maybe not now) and I am writing (NOW).
    What’s wrong with gerunds? They are a natural part of the language. They make it possible to use a verb like a noun: as the subject of a sentence, or as an object of a verb or a preposition.
    What sounds better: “To swim is my favourite summer sport” or “swimming is my favourite summer sport”?
    And sometimes there is a nuance of difference in the meaning: “I hate to swim across the pond” or “I hate swimmimg across the pond.”
    “I’m sick and tired of (to wait???) for you” or “I’m sick and tired of waiting for you.”
    It would be better to think about exactly what you’re trying to get across and use all the diversity the English language has than just to wipe one form off your slate in an effort to impress! The result is often stilted.
    I like your columns, but sorry, this idea sounds like far-fetched nonsense to me.

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    1. These are great points! Yes, I wouldn’t want to wipe out their use, they absolutely have their place. Since the specific recommendation was to reduce gerunds, I started to pay attention to when I use -ing words. Sometimes they remain the best word choice, other times I can replace them with something better.

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  2. -ing verbs have been on my mind recently too — in fact I just had a conversation about them at a wedding this past weekend! Perhaps some of my fellow wedding attendees have gotten similar feedback ๐Ÿ˜‰ As a grammar geek, though, I want to clarify: the “I am planning to” example isn’t a gerund; it’s the present progressive form of the verb. I think the softness you’re sensing is due to the continuous, unfinished feeling the progressive tense carries. A gerund is when the verb actually becomes a noun in the sentence, e.g. “Planning is my favorite activity” or “There’s nothing worse than planning”. I wonder if the feedback was particular to -ing in the progressive participle based on your example here?

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    1. I also realized that -ing verbs can act as participles, too, and then they act as adjectives! All the more reason they are confusing ๐Ÿ˜‚. For the particular feedback, it was a while ago and I might not have used accurate examples here.

      I think I remember the feedback being for a bullet list, where I (or whoever we reviewed for) had begun each bullet item with a gerund. It may have been something like, “This person will be responsible for the following: Drafting proposals, Reviewing emails, Tracking metrics.” (Are those gerunds? I need to learn basic grammar ๐Ÿ˜ฌ ). The revision would look like, “This person will perform the following tasks: Draft proposals, review emails, track metrics.”

      If nothing else, the revision removes characters to make it shorter. I also find that when I look for -ing verbs, I sometimes find a stronger word or clearer way to construct a sentence.

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  3. You’ve made some excellent points here and I admire your bravery in writing about grammar. It always results in a lot of discussion! I agree gerunds can often weaken your writing and make you sound hesitant.
    Whilst you have the attention of some grammarians, can someone tell me why my editing software always tells me to remove the word “that”? As in, I agree that gerunds can weaken your writing. Why is this wrong?

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