Gerund: Take a verb, like "cook", and add "-ing" to it, that verb ("cooking") is now what is technically known as a gerund.
- A gerund can follow a verb: I don't like cooking.
- A gerund can be the subject of a sentence: Cooking is an art lost on me.
- A gerund can follow a preposition: I can't cook without wrecking a meal.
Gerunds are great for taking care of repetition.
He is creating a fabulous dinner for us. He likes to cook more than I do. = repetition of "he"
versus replacing with a gerund:
He is creating a fabulous dinner for us. Cooking is more pleasurable for him than it is for me. = Use of "cooking" as a gerund at the beginning of the sentence omits repetition.
What about infinitives? What are those, and when are they used?
Infinitive: basic verb form on which every verb is based: "to cook", "to clean", "to eat"
- An infinitive can follow a verb: I don't like to cook.
- An infinitive can be the subject of a sentence: To cook a meal is next to impossible for me.
- An infinitive canNOT follow a preposition: I can't cook without to cook a meal.
Infinitives are great for taking care of repetition.He is creating a fabulous dinner for us. He likes to cook more than I do. = repetition of "he"
versus replacing with an infinitive:
He is creating a fabulous dinner for us. To cook is more pleasurable for him than it is for me. = Use of "to cook" as an infinitive at the beginning of the sentence omits repetition.
Opinions differ on gerunds and how much they should be used. There's a good reason for that. Many writers think gerunds are fabulous and, as a result, tend to overuse them. Problems with gerunds:
Cooking is more than a hobby for him. Running a restaurant is his goal. Shopping for food is one of his favourite pastimes. = gerund overkill
Cooking is more than a hobby for him. His goal is to run a restaurant. One of his favourite pastimes is shopping for food. = replacing one of the gerunds with an infinitive is one option (infinitive = "to run", "to copy", "to sing") which mixes things up a bit.
Running to the stove, I can see he's let the pot boil over. Reaching for the knob, I shut the element off. Cleaning up his mess is my job, but I still prefer it to cooking. = gerund overkill
Running to the stove, I can see he's let the pot boil over. I reach for the knob and shut the element off. Cleaning up his mess is my job, but I still prefer it to cooking. = I kept most of the gerunds, but mixed it up a bit by using "I reach".
Something is burning. I can smell it. Racing to the scene of the crime, I reach for a cloth. It will be up to me, as always, to take care of clean up. The pot bubbles and spatters wildly, threatening the gorgeous meal he's been preparing, so I turn off the offending element and move the pot aside. = a much more interesting way of saying the same thing. Brevity is often a good thing. I'm all in favour of deleting unnecessary words; however, in order to avoid gerund overkill, it may sometimes be necessary to increase the word count.
Too much of anything, including the use of gerunds, is boring. Repetition is boring. #1 piece of advice about writing? Don't bore the reader!
Study every word you use. Gerunds are fine; however, using too many gerunds can be just as dull as using too many adjectives or adverbs. They are bothersome to the reader and often seem like a forced way to avoid repetition. Take the time to consider every word, every sentence, every thought. Paint it the way you see it. Make your work the best it can be.