Difference Between Gerund and Participle

Main Difference: Many English learners face difficulties in distinguishing the difference between gerund and participle since both gerund formation and present participle formation is similar. However, the main difference between these two forms is that gerund is a noun while a participle is an adjective.

What is a Gerund

Gerund is a verb ending with –ing that functions as a noun in a sentence. A gerund is formed by adding –ing to the infinitive form of the verb. (listen + ing+= listening, talk + ing = talking) Since a gerund is base on a verb, it indicates an action or a state of being. A gerund can be seen as a subject, direct object, subject complement, and object of preposition.

As a Subject

Smoking is prohibited.

Skiing is my favorite sport.

Meditating can be a relaxing and rewarding activity.

As a Direct Subject

He loves travelling to far away countries.

They love her singing.

As a Subject Complement

My sister’s hobby is reading novels.

My dog’s favorite activity is barking.

As an Object of Preposition

The police arrested him for vandalizing public property.

He left without saying a single word.

You might get in trouble for faking an illness to avoid school.

Reading is her hobby.

Reading is her hobby.

What is a Participle

A participle is a verb that is used as an adjective. In the English language, there are two kinds of participles; present participle and past participle. Many English learners find it difficult to distinguish the difference between present participle and gerund as both end with –ing. In fact, the formation of the present participle is the same as the formation of gerund. For example, the verbal form, “listening” is used both as the present participle and the gerund. The present participle expresses the state of being or an action, as it is based on a verb. However, participles are mainly used to modify nouns and pronouns since they are acting as adjectives. A Participle has the following functions.

Continuous Aspects

He wasn’t driving.

I was just passing by your house.


She touched the burning log.

The research revealed a shocking truth.

 Participle Clauses

I saw her walking on the beach.

Having worked in a hospital, she knew the seriousness of the injury.

The man operating the machine was not injured.

When a sentence begins with a participle, or a participle phrase a comma should be placed at its end. For instance,

Smiling, she hugged the baby.

Remember that if the participle or the participle phrase occurs in the middle of a sentence, it should be separated by using commas, only if the information is not essential to the meaning. If it contains important information, commas should not be used.

Martin, watching an old movie, drifted in and out of sleep.

The girl wearing a green hat is my friend.

 gerund vs participle

The girl wearing the purple top is Emily’s sister.

What is the difference between Gerund and Participle


Gerund functions as a noun

Participle functions as an adjective


Gerund can be observed in a sentence as a subject, direct object, subject complement, and object of preposition.

Participle can be seen as a modifier.

About the Author: de Silva

N. de Silva is a graduate, specializing in Sociology. She also works as a part time language educator. With an immense love for language, literature, and psychology she aspires to be a writer who can blend in subject material with linguistic mastery