It's my understanding that gerunds are verbs +ing used as nouns. But I'm not sure about the following sentences.

It's within walking distance of my apartment.

I see more older people walking these days.

Please explain it to me.

Thank you.

  • English is anomalous in this, having (as I understand) lost the original participle and replaced it with a gerund construction, originally of the form on doing (compare at work), which wore down to a-doing and then doing. So the same form has two distinct roles. Mar 23, 2023 at 6:36

3 Answers 3


Many grammarians today do not distinguish between participles and gerunds. However, I think that if you do make that distinction, "walking" in "walking distance" is better regarded as a gerund. Compare "cough medicine" or "door frame". We often use nouns to modify other nouns. The noun does not thereby become an adjective.

In "a walking man", "walking" is undoubtedly a participle, but in "walking distance", it isn't the distance that is walking - rather, it's a distance suitable for walking.

On the other hand, in "I see them walking", "walking" is a participle, but to regard it as adjective-like is an error, because it is analogous to the use of nonfinite "walk" (a bare infinitive, which is unambiguously a verb): "I see them walk" has almost the same meaning and almost the same structure as "I see them walking".


Neither one of those are gerunds, but instead participle adjectives.

In "walking distance" "distance" is the noun; "walking" modifies it.

In "more older people walking" "people" is the noun; "walking" modifies it.


Walking is a present participle.

present participle= verb + ing

A present participle is used as an adjective. It is also used in the continuous tenses (to show the continuous action).

walking distance- 'Distance' is a noun. 'Walking' modifies the noun 'distance'. So walking is a present participle.

I am walking. 'Walking' is a present participle.

I see... walking... Here 'walking' is a present participle.

gerund= verb + ing

A gerund is used as a noun.

Walking is a good exercise. 'Walking' is the subject and it is a gerund.

I enjoy walking. 'Walking' is the object and it is a gerund.

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