This is the second of four High English Grammar quizzes looking at non-finites. Non-finites are verbs that don’t depend on the person, number or the tense while finite verbs do depend on the person, number or the tense in a sentence. In this quiz we study more specifically the non-finites represented by verbs ending with 'ing' - present participles and gerunds, two important parts of English grammar.
Consider the sentence ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’ From the sentence we gather that a stone is described as rolling. We could describe the stone with other adjectives such as rough, smooth or round. In the sentence given in the example we understand that 'rolling' is treated as an adjective and describes the stone. 'Rolling' is formed from the verb ‘roll’ by adding ‘ing’ to its ending. Verbs such as roll + ing (rolling) are called present participles.
Present participles function like adjectives in sentences. Usually they describe unfinished actions. Present participles can be used with all the tenses in a sentence. Remember, in one of our earlier quizzes we had talked about ‘ing’ forms of verbs used with auxiliaries such as 'am,' 'are,' 'is,' 'was,' 'were,' 'be' and 'been' in sentences, and these were also called present participles. In the sentence, ‘He is seeing his father,’ ‘seeing’ is a present participle (see + ing).
We have another form of verb ending with 'ing', which is also a non-finite known as the gerund. For instance, in the sentence ‘he is confident of passing the test’ the word ‘passing’ is known as a gerund and in this sentence it functions as a noun. Though the gerund and the present participle use the same verb with 'ing' as its ending, the main difference is that the present participle functions as an adjective and the gerund functions as a noun. Gerunds can also be used to form compound nouns such as 'drinking-water' and 'sleeping-bag'.
Knowing the differences between a gerund and present participle helps in better understanding of English grammar and hence better communication. The quiz that follows takes you through gerunds and present participles.