What is compound gerund and how would I separate them from perfect participles? Like

I heard of his having gained a promotion

He went away having forgotten it

  • A gerund is a "nouny" verb usage. Thus you can tell your first example is a gerund, because we could replace the gerund-based clause having gained a promotion by a simple noun, to give I heard of his success. But your second example is more adverbial / adjectival, where we could replace the participle-based clause having forgotten it by adverbial / adjectival He went away cheerfully / cheerful. Oct 3, 2018 at 13:08
  • 'Compound gerund' is not a term I've come across. In your first sentence "having" is a gerund-participial verb as head of the matrix clause "his having gained a promotion". Within this clause "gained promotion" is a separate subordinate clause as complement of "having". In your second sentence, "having" is again a gerund-participial verb as head of the matrix clause "having forgotten it", where "forgotten it" is a subordinate clause as complement of "having".
    – BillJ
    Oct 3, 2018 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


First, participles are formed from verbs and are most often used as a part of a verb. Example: The bulls were running.

But participles can also be used as adjectives. Example: The running bulls filled the streets.

And they can be used as nouns. When used as nouns, participles are called "gerunds." Example: The running of the bulls in Pamplona occurs in July.

There is no difference in form, pronunciation, or orthography between participles used as part of a verb. as an adjective, or as a gerund. The difference is in grammatical function and is of importance only in describing how language is used.

The verb "hear of" requires a noun as an object. Therefore, the participial form "having gained" in your first example is being used a noun and therefore is a gerund. That its use is as a noun is shown by the possesive "his." It was what was heard.

The verb "go away" does not take an object. The participial form "having forgotten" is an adjective relating to the subject of the sentence, namely "He."

It is a difference in grammatical function, not form, that distinguishes "gerunds" from "participles." Because there is no difference in form, it would be less confusing to students to say that a participle can be used as a part of a verb, an adjective, or a noun and to forget the word "gerund" altogether.

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