Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sentence Diagramming: Diagramming Gerunds

A gerund is a super part of speech that takes on some of the qualities of both nouns and verbs.

It's a Noun!  It's a Verb!  It's a Super Gerund!

Diagramming a sentence is a great way to unravel the meaning of a sentence and check its grammatical construction.  This type of visual analysis of a sentence can help people become better readers and better writers.  Picking out each of the parts of a sentence (the subjects, predicates, modifiers, phrases, and clauses) helps both readers and writers see how each part of the sentence works to create meaning. Understanding how each word functions in a a sentence helps ensure proper construction or analysis of that sentence.

The type of word I'm explaining in this post, the gerund,  has qualities of two different parts of speech  at the same time; it looks like an "ing" verb, it takes on a verbal complement like a verb, but we use it like a noun.

It's important to know how to identify gerunds within sentences to prevent subject-verb agreement errors.  These errors can occur because gerunds, like present participle verbs, end in "ing" and might be mistaken for the main verb in a sentence - even if it's the subject.  Gerunds are used as nouns, not verbs.  A gerund can be used in a sentence in any way a noun can be used: as a complement, object, or subject.

How to Diagram a Gerund

When a gerund appears in a sentence, it is diagrammed on the gerund element.  It looks like a stretched-out "z" or "2" on legs.

Gerunds should be diagrammed on the gerund element.

Whether the gerund is a subject, object, or complement, it is placed on the gerund element.  The root word of the gerund can be placed on the top horizontal line of the gerund element, any additional letters added to the root before the "ing" ending can curve around the horizontal line of the element, and the "ing" can be placed in the lower horizontal line.  Take a look at the example of "Running."

The gerund sits on top of the elongated "z" or "2."

If the gerund is a subject, the gerund element will stand on the base line in the subject area of the diagram, like shown below.  If the gerund is an object or complement, the gerund element will stand on the base line in either the object or complement area of the diagram.

Stand the gerund element on top of the base line in the proper place on the diagram.

How to Diagram a Gerund with a Verbal Complement

Just as a main verb in a sentence can be followed by a direct object, a gerund can be followed by a verbal complement.   Take a look at this example: "Running laps is super."  "Running" is still the subject, "is" is still the main verb, and "super" is still the subject complement.  However, this time we've added the noun, "laps," after the gerund.  "Laps" answers the question Running what?  It adds information to our gerund.

To diagram the verbal complement, write the verbal complement on the gerund element with the gerund.  The gerund and its complement have the same visual relationship as a main verb and its object.

A verbal complement will follow its verbal.

In Conclusion . . . 

Although it can be tricky to identify and diagram gerunds, analyzing and diagramming them can be mastered with just a little knowledge and practice.  You can become a super diagrammer of this super type of word and the complements!

Want to read more about diagramming sentences?  Try

What's an Object Complement?
Prepositional Phrase or Phrasal Verb?
Diagramming Sentences: Folk Song Friday

Or purchase my complete sentence diagramming textbook, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language.  

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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