The Gerund as the Subject of a Sentence or a Clause | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 26 May 2024)

When we start a sentence or a clause with a verb as the subject, we should change the verb to the gerund form (i.e., the -ing form):

❌ Build a career as a singer is one of his biggest goals.
✅ Building a career as a singer is one of his biggest goals.

❌ Eat more vegetables is good for your health.
✅ Eating more vegetables is good for your health.

❌ Read every day is great for the mind.
✅ Reading every day is great for the mind.

❌ Live in Hong Kong can be stressful.
✅ Living in Hong Kong can be stressful.

❌ Listen to soft music is relaxing.
✅ Listening to soft music is relaxing.

❌ Write a poem is not easy.
✅ Writing a poem is not easy.

Starting a sentence with the base form of a verb is possible provided that it serves as the main verb of that sentence. This use of verbs is referred to as the imperative mood, which is used for giving commands, making requests, or offering advice:

Keep quiet!

Don't go anywhere until I come back.

✅ Please be quiet during the presentation.

✅ Take your shoes off before entering the house.

✅ Speak clearly when you present your ideas.

✅ Wash your hands before eating.

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Examples from the Media

Running a marathon is a feat for anyone. —Toronto Star (2020)

"Drinking too much alcohol has many more health risks than most people realize," Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, said in a statement. —HuffPost (2014)

Growing old is depressing; older people are more depressed than younger people. The Guardian (2015)

Buying houses in different locations is great for diversification, but it also increases your management costs drastically. —The Washington Post (2020)


Choose the correct word to complete each sentence.

1. Return/Returning the book before the due date.

2. Return/Returning the book before the due date is important.

3. Keep/Keeping your room clean and tidy can help you concentrate better.

4. Keep/Keeping your room clean and tidy.

5. Spend/Spending some time in the sun each day.

6. Spend/Spending some time in the sun each day can help strengthen your bones.

Answer Key

1. Return    2. Returning    3. Keeping    4. Keep    5. Spend    6. Spending

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. The phrase Taking photos or videos uses a gerund (Taking), which is a verb form ending in -ing that functions as a noun. This allows the activity of taking photos or videos to be treated as the subject of the sentence.
2. The plural forms photos and videos should be used when discussing such media in general terms. Generally, a singular countable noun should either be preceded by a determiner (e.g. a, the, and that) or be made plural.
3. The singular verb is should be used because it agrees with the singular subject Taking photos or videos. Even though photos or videos might suggest a plural, the main subject is the gerund Taking, which is singular. This correctly follows the rule of subject-verb agreement.
4. The original warning sign text is confusing because it conveys the opposite of the intended message. The word not is needed to correct this. Alternatively, the sign could read No photos or videos allowed, which is clear and concise.

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