When a modifier, an object, or both are tacked to the tail of a gerund, it becomes a gerund phrase. In other words, a gerund phrase is a phrase when we tack a modifier, object, or both, to the tail of a gerund. Let’s break it down to make it more simple and comprehensible.
Let’s take the example of a gerund phrase like this:
Ignoring your physical health constantly is a recipe for disaster.
Thus we can break the above phrase into the following components:
The gerund in the sentence is ignoring. (Remember that a gerund is a verb that has the –ing as a suffix, and that acts as noun)
The object of the gerund phrase in the sentence is your physical health. (Remember: The object of Gerund Phrase is the thing being acted upon by the noun, in this case by the noun/gerund Ignoring)
The modifier in the sentence is constantly.
How to Identify?
There are some specific rules that a gerund phrase follows. Know these rules will help you recognize it in a sentence:
Such a phrase always starts with a gerund
Such a phrase either has an object, a modifier, or both of them.
The entire phrase acts as a noun.
Such a phrase has a singular agreement with a verb. In other words it always takes a singular verb.
Check these examples and sample sentences containing gerund phrases in different ways:
Watching the beautiful scenery quietly is my favourite pastime.
My favourite pastime is watching the beautiful scenery quietly.
I recommend watching the beautiful scenery quietly to pass the time.
Irrespective of the location of the watching the beautiful scenery quietly in the sentence, it fulfills the four rules mentioned above. Moreover, you must keep it in mind that such a phrase basically functions as a noun. Thus, you can verify it by replacing it with a noun to see if the sentence still makes some grammatical sense. Check the below give sample sentences.
Cricket is my favourite pastime
My favourite pastime is cricket
I recommend cricket to pass time.
Nevertheless, you must need to remain cautious when dealing with such phrases. Sometimes you might confuse it with participle phrase which has more or less the same structure. This is somewhat tricky and subtle. Check the sentences below:
Exercising regularly is the secret of his fabulous health. (Gerund phrase)
Exercising regularly, ewriter29 improved his health a lot. (Not a Gerund phrase)
Driving rashly is dangerous for road safety. (Gerund phrase)
Driving rashly, the accountant and his assistant became more boisterous and raucous (not a Gerund phrase)
How to Determine?
How do you determine the second sentence in the above two examples is not a gerund phrase? The answer is that it does not function as a noun, thus failing to fulfill the four rules for gerund phrases. On the contrary, it a participle phrase, that functions like an adjective. This we can check by using a noun instead of the participle phrase. When we replace it with a noun, then it does not make any sense.
Exercise is the secret of his fabulous health. (The sentence still makes sense)
Exercise, ewriter29 improved his health a lot. (The sentence makes no sense)
Speed is dangerous for road safety. (The sentence still makes sense)
Speed, the accountant and his assistant became more boisterous and raucous. (The sentence makes no sense).
Hint: A participle phrase always has a ‘comma’ after it. Thus if you see a ‘comma’ after a phrase, it is more likely to be a participle phrase rather than a gerund phrase.