"I saw the storm approaching."

In above line approaching is describing storm.

Gerund is used as objective complement to describe object.

Participle like an adjective describes a noun or pronoun.

In above line,is approaching acting as gerund or a participle?

Following screenshot depicts support for gerund. example of gerund used as complement

  • 1
    It is a present participle. Approaching modifies the storm.
    – GKK
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:00
  • @EvaristeGalois why not gerund?I have mentioned that why am I confused with gerund?
    – ashish7249
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:02
  • That is not the place for gerunds, but past participles. Past participles are used like adjective. That's all.
    – GKK
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:13
  • @EvaristeGalois gerund and infinitive behave alike when used as noun.I saw him go.Here go is infinitive.So going would be gerund.Am I right?If not, why?
    – ashish7249
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:18
  • @EvaristeGalois I have edited my question and attached a screenshot.Do go through it.
    – ashish7249
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:46

4 Answers 4


First off, a participle is an inflected form of a verb. In English, there is a present participle, formed by adding "ing" at the end of an infinitive, and a past participle, usually but not always formed by adding "ed" at the end of an infinitive.

Participles are used in three different ways: as part of a compound verb, as an adjective, and as a noun. When a participle is used as a noun, it is called a "gerund." So gerunds are participles used in a particular way.

Second, nouns generally take a possessive pronoun: e.g, "my car" or "her house." In Received English, gerunds follow the general rule and use possessive pronouns. However, this rule is often breached in practice. The source you have cited is describing that when pronouns are tied to a gerund, you may see either an objective or possessive pronoun used. I'd advise using the possessive, but not worry when you fail to do so.

In your example, what do you see? You see a storm. "Approaching" describes the storm: it is approaching rather than stationary or receding. Therefore "approaching" is a participle being used as an adjective.

In your source, "leaving" is the direct object of excuse and so is acting as a noun. When a participle is used as a noun it is called a "gerund."

  • Gerund are a part of speech different from participle that happens to take the same form in English as the present participle. In other languages, they take different forms. For instance, in Spanish, gerunds are take the same form as the infinitive. Jan 2, 2018 at 19:24
  • @Accumulation I am fully aware that gerunds are nouns. But in English gerunds are absolutely identical in form to participles. There is no need to draw a distinction between participles and gerunds. If we were to make a distinction, it would be less confusing to students to use "gerund" and "gerundive" to explain different uses of participles. The question asked shows the potential for confusion in the terminology you are using. Jan 2, 2018 at 19:42
  • In the source I have provided,second line "I hope you will excuse me leaving early." can be transformed into "I hope you will excuse me who is leaving early."From this perspective,leaving is participle.While book says that it is gerund.
    – ashish7249
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:42
  • It is a gerund. What is being asked to be excused is not "me" in general, but leaving early. Jan 2, 2018 at 23:58

First, you should differentiate between Gerun and present participle and their usages.

You have to make sure that gerund acts as noun ( a noun that contains action and a matter of processing and accomplishing)

It could act like a subject:

  • playing subject soccer with Messi and Cristiano is one of my dreams.

As a complement:

  • what I want from you this year is achieving as many goals as you can.

As Object of a verb :

  • I recommend reading books is the best way to improve your English.

As Object of a preposition:

  • He accused her spouse of murdering his little daughter.

Part of a compound noun:

  • We had no drinking water left.

Here in this example you should be wary to comprehend this common confused issue.

Here drinking water means “the water that is used for drinking” And another is

  • Teguila drinking people are exposed to sudden death.

Here drinking acts like present participle “people who drink tequila”

And present participle acts like :

As continues action/ verb:

  • what are you trying to say now
  • recently, I have been playing guitar.

Acts like adjective

  • You have to find attracting, interesting, exciting place to go on vacation.

As a relative clause:

  • the man slaughtering/ killing people down the street was shot to death by police.

Finally, Sometimes it is a matter of interpretation whether an -ing form is a gerund or a present participle:

  • Hunting poisonous snakes can be dangerous.

Hunting as a present participle functions as an adjective and describes poisonous-snakes. The sentence means:

Poisonous-snakes that hunt can be dangerous.

If hunting is a gerund, poisonous snakes is its object and the sentence means:

It can be dangerous to hunt poisonous snakes.

In your question approaching acts as a present participle.

If we reconstruct the sentence this way, it would me more clear to understand:

  • approaching storm has been seen by someone.

Which voluminously means : the storm [which was approaching] has been seen

  • I believe it is confusing to distinguish between a participle and a gerund. Is "seeing" a participle or a gerund? Who knows? It is better I think to say that a gerund is a participle used as a noun. We distinguish between form and purpose. Definitions are of course arbitrary but socially mediated. Pedagogically, I believe it would be helpful to reserve "participle" for two inflected forms of a verb, and "gerund" for one use of present participles. Jan 2, 2018 at 15:41
  • In fact, I'd like to propose re-purposing "gerundive" in English to mean a participle used as an adjective. Then we would have two separate terms for the two uses of participles outside compound verbs. Jan 2, 2018 at 15:46
  • In the source I have provided,second line "I hope you will excuse me leaving early." can be transformed into "I hope you will excuse me who is leaving early."From this perspective,leaving is participle.While book says that it is gerund.
    – ashish7249
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:42
  • @ashish7249 No, it should be rephrased as "I hope you will excuse me that I am leaving early" (that-clause is the object of excuse) to have the same meaning as "I hope you will excuse me leaving early". As in "I hope you will excuse me who is leaving early", leaving is not a gerund, but a present participle. And its meaning is somewhat different from that.
    – GKK
    Jan 3, 2018 at 1:38

Gerund = A form of a verb usually works like a noun.

Participle = A form of verb works as an adjective.

You can easily determine Gerund and Participle by formating them with tow words, 'is' & 'for'.

Here "I saw the storm approaching."

Formate: "Storm is approaching"

You can't formate it like "Storm for approaching"

If you can formate it with 'is' then it's a participle. And if you can formate it with 'for' then it's a gerund.

Example: "This is my writing table."

Here though writing is an adjective it's a gerund.

Formate: "Table for writing."


I saw the storm [which was] approaching.

approaching = Postpositive Adjective / Reduced Adjective clause

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