What do the words having, playing, singing, and walking all have in common (have the same)? They’re all in the gerund form of the verb!

Don’t let a word like gerunds scare you. Gerund is just a fancy word for words ending in -ing. Gerunds, or -ing verbs, are verb forms used as nouns.

For example:

  • I don’t like standing.

In this sentence, standing is used as a direct object (accusative tense). Gerunds can also be used as subjects, or used after prepositions.

How to use gerunds and prepositions

Prepositions can follow any word, whether it’s a noun, pronoun, verb, or adjective.

Hard rule: You will always use gerunds after prepositions. When you want to use a verb after a preposition, the rule is simple: it must be in the gerund / verb-ing form.

Infinitive verbs (link) are never used after a preposition.

(As a quick reminder, prepositions are words that indicate where a noun or pronoun is in relation to another word. As an example, “The man on the train platform.”)

For example:

  • The girl burst into tears of joy (started crying) after seeing her new puppy.
  • “Try to get some sleep before going on vacation.”
  • Upon getting home from a long day, I went straight to sleep.

There are lots of rules when it comes to English, but this one is very straightforward! If you use a preposition, and want to use a verb after it, it always, always, ALWAYS has to be in its -ing form.

How to use the -ing form after a verb

If you want to use two verbs in a row (one after the other), the second verb will either have to be in the gerund form / -ing form, or in the infinitive form (for more on the infinitive form, see our blog here).

Some verbs are always followed by the -ing form, and some are always followed by the infinitive.

Verbs that are always followed by the –ing / gerund form include:

  • enjoy
  • admit
  • mind
  • avoid
  • dislike
  • consider
  • finish
  • feel like
  • give up
  • suggest

For example, you may see some sentences like these:

  • I don’t feel like going to the party tonight.
  • She tries to avoid seeing him on the street.
  • He doesn’t mind seeing a film tonight.
  • Would you consider working for us in the future?

Verbs that are always followed by the infinitive form include:

  • want
  • learn
  • offer
  • afford
  • ask
  • decide
  • choose
  • prepare
  • promise
  • refuse
  • would like

For example, you may see verbs taking the infinitive form in sentences like these:

  • Their daughter refuses to go to bed on time.
  • I would like to order, please.
  • What would you choose to do if you could do anything?
  • The theatre staff asks you to remain seated during the performance.

There are a lot of verbs that take either the infinitive or the gerund form afterwards, so a dictionary is your best friend if you’re not sure what the correct form is. We just wanted to give you a taste of how the gerund form works overall.

Try a few gerund form sentences in the comments below, and we’ll make sure to let you know how you did! Practice makes perfect, after all!

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Looking for grammar? Try Tricky Adjectives and Adverbs, when to use Which and That, Order of Adjectives, Its vs It’s, and Present Continuous tense!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, a blogger, a yoga instructor, and with topics like this, is glad, sometimes, that she’s a native English speaker! Her tip: Try learning first the phrases you use instead of just memorizing lists of verbs… 

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