He had problems reading without glasses.

In the above sentence is 'reading' a present participle or a gerund in this sentence.can anyone explain, please 🙏

  • In most modern descriptions of English grammar, "partiples" and "gerunds" are the same thing (they are the form of the verb with -ing at the end) You should be careful because there are some nouns and some adjectives that also end with those letters, but modern grammars just talk about the "-ing" form of the verb, or "gerund-participle". Examples like this illustrate why you shouldn't ask "Is it a gerund or a participle?"
    – James K
    Commented Apr 6 at 15:25
  • Gerunds function as nouns while participles function as adjectives. How can they be the same thing? Commented Apr 6 at 15:58
  • "Gerunds function as nouns while participles function as adjectives"-- This doesn't work. Consider the sentence "I like chicken soup". The word "chicken" is a noun (a noun adjunct. Now then "I like boiling soup" The word "boiling is functioning the same way as chicken, so it is a gerund. Okay what about "I like hot soup", the word "hot" is an adjective. So "I like boiling soup" the word boiling is a participle.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 6 at 16:04
  • Or take your example. "he had problems reading without glasses". The phrase "reading without glasses" cannot be replaced by either a noun nor an adjective. So this is (by your standard) neither a gerund nor a participle.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 6 at 16:07
  • Does this answer your question? How to use supplementary -ing clauses at the end of sentences
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 6 at 18:20

3 Answers 3


In "He had problems reading without glasses." reading is a gerund-participle. In traditional grammar, it was a gerund.


If you can put the word when in front of the -ing form (and it makes sense), you can understand it as a verbal form. Otherwise it is a nominal.

He had difficulty (when) reading without glasses. grammatical, verbal

(When) reading sci-fi novels was his favorite past-time. ungrammatical, noun-like


The tense of the word "reading" is the present participle form, but within the context of the sentence it is the past perfect tense.

The past perfect tense is formed with the auxiliary verb "had" followed by the main verb, which in this case is "reading."

  • 1
    No, the past perfect form is "had + past participle" eg "had eaten". This isn't a past perfect clause.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 6 at 15:34

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