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There is a common misconception that gerunds are the same as participles. (Also a theory that participle is a made-up word that English majors invented to confuse non-English majors...slightly more of a misconception.) To understand a gerund, one must understand first a verb, then a participle, and then (and only then) a gerund. A verb is an action word. To understand this is perhaps to remember how verbs were accompanied by jazzy music in Schoolhouse Rock: to see, to throw, and so forth. A word that describes action is a verb (like "describes" and "is" in that independent clause just now). If it demonstrates movement, action, or transformation, it's a verb. A participle is the -ing form of the verb. So instead of saying "run," which is a simple verb, one can use the participle of run, which is "running." When Gene Kelly says "I'm singing in the rain," he is using the participle of sing, "singing." A gerund is basically a participle, an -ing verb, but it disguises itself as a noun. Take a look at this sentence: "Dancing is what I like to do best." The speaker is describing a noun, a thing, which is dancing. Even though dance seems like an action word, showing movement and such, it ends up being a noun because it's the thing that the speaker likes to do. Here is another example: "Writing is a pain." Writing is an action, but in this sentence, it's a noun, it's the thing that is a pain. Or take a look at the title, "Knowing is Believing." This one is a bit trickier, because both -ing words look like verbs (the action of knowing or believing). However, the real verb in this sentence is "is." The title implies that something IS something else, so in this case, knowing is the noun and believing is a subject complement (the descriptive part of the sentence). And for those of you who believe grammar should stop showing off and just be simple, you might agree that the "ending" of this post is the best part.
Contributed by Lindsey Narmour