If the gerund has a direct object after it, should I put the preposition "of" between them?

For example:

"Thinking of you makes me happy" - this gerund is formed from a phrasal verb, so it should be used with the same preposition as the original verb. This is clear. But what about the following:

"She likes reading poems", or "She likes reading of poems"

"He has already finished washing the dishes", or "He has already finished washing of the dishes"

I've asked another question connected with this one, but I haven't got a precise answer. Moreover, I've found such information: http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/59703-Prepositions-after-Gerunds https://www.englishforums.com/English/PrepositionAfterAGerund/bzwdhh/post.htm

I've also got the same information in Russian from several really qualified English speakers.

So, now I understand that a gerund cannot take a preposition "of" after it, unless it is formed from a phrasal verb with the corresponding preposition (e.g. think of), or in case if the "-ing" word is not a gerund, but a verbal noun ("The washing of the dishes took two hours"). However, I've got totally opposite information in here, so I formed a separate question about it. Does the gerund with a direct object take a preposition "of" after it? If it does, why? Are there any rules proving that it is grammatically correct? If so, is there a possibility that it may be used only in informal speech, or even in slang?

  • "She likes reading poems." and "He has already finished washing the dishes". The two are verbs. "Thinking of you" is not. The former one is a subject.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 18:39
  • I used to think like this, but I've got the opposite answers: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/44212/… People say that a gerund (not the verbal noun) can take "of" after it. And I think I've given a bad example of a sentence with a phrasal verb. Even if I say "I love thinking of you", the gerund still would require a preposition, because it is formed from a phrasal verb. So what is the rule in this case? Plus, people (see the link to my previous question) say that, e.g. "Some websites allow editing of playlists online." is a correct sentence. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 19:20
  • Nah, I don't see how he thinks my and your last belief is wrong. He just admits that in that especial case, it's clumsy to be grammatically correct.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 19:27
  • As I had commented over in one of your other threads A single “of” for a noun and two gerunds?, it would probably be worthwhile for there to be a decent post explaining the differences between the following: gerundial noun, and present-participial adjective, and the verbs (gerund and present participle). -- (Aside: In that other thread, you tried to reply to me but unfortunately I wasn't notified because you didn't address your comment with "@F.E.")
    – F.E.
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 19:40
  • @F.E. unfortunately, I didn't know about this option. I'll remember it, thank you) I'm not sure that present participle or gerundial noun should be mentioned here, because I'm interested only in possibility of using gerunds with the preposition "of". I've always thought it's impossible, but answers for my previous question confuse me a lot. Though, your offer may be also useful - I'll ask about it in case if the current question won't help me. Thank you! Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


As a rule, gerunds should be used like their verbal counterparts. If the verb is a phrasal verb, then the gerund should be constructed accordingly.

So your example "Thinking of you makes me happy" is correct, because you'd use "of" if you rephrased this with "think" as a verb:

When I think of you, it makes me happy.

However, this is incorrect

He has finished washing of the dishes.

because you'd say "I don't want to wash the dishes," not "I don't want to wash of the dishes." That last sentence makes no sense in English.

The Inevitable and Rarely Used Exception

You knew there was going to be an exception, right?

In a few cases, using the gerund + of is correct when it is important to emphasize the specific act the gerund describes. It also sounds extremely formal to an English speaker; it is not a construction one would use in everyday speech except as a joke.

Because this construction refers to a definite act, it must take the definite article "the." The phrase "She enjoys reading of poems" would sound odd to an English speaker, but "She enjoys the reading of poems" is perfectly correct, though having an elevated tone.

And because "the reading of poems" draws attention to the act and not the person performing the act, it can imply the reading of poems by others in addition to her own reading of poems.

A few more examples:

The signing of the Declaration of Independence actually took place on July 2.

The naming of new Nobel Prize laureates is always exciting.

I love the turning of the seasons.

Notice how the use of "the" refers to a specific act or event. The sentence

Signing the Declaration of Independence actually took place on July 2.

does not make sense because without "the," it implies a habitual action, not a specific act or event.

Humorous use of this construction usually makes an insignificant event sound more important than it really is:

Now is the time for the washing of dishes.

I humbly invite you to join me in the drinking of beer.

  • Thank you, this is exactly what I think about this situation) In some sources (including Russian ones) they call these exceptions desribed in your answer, a verbal noun - I've noted it in my question. I also understand about prepositions using with gerunds formed from phrasal verbs. So it is incorrect to say "editing of playlists', isn't it? But some people say it's ok to use simple gerunds with direct objects with the preposition "of", though they don't explain why exactly it may be right. That's why I'm confused) Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 13:49
  • 1
    Those people would be wrong unless the gerund was preceded by "the". "Editing of playlists is tedious" is incorrect, but "Editing playlists is tedious" OR "The editing of playlists is tedious" are both correct, but the second sentence emphasizes the act of editing itself. It's a subtle difference. The point is, only use a preposition if it appears in the phrasal verb. If you say "I'll write down your phone number," then you'd also say, "Writing down your phone number is fun." Here the preposition is "down," not "of," so that's the preposition that goes with the gerund.
    – oaker
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 14:59
  • 1
    For a real life example of this construction, read the poem "Naming of Parts." Of course it doesn't have "The" at the front, but that may be because it's a British poem from 70 years ago, or because it fit into the poem better. As a native speaker and former editor, I still say the gerund + of is better form. Anyway, the poem illustrates how this construction emphasizes an act. It's about a military training class where the soldiers learn about the different parts of a rifle. -"Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed
    – oaker
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 15:12
  • I totally agree with you. Maybe those answers from my previous thread were a result of misunderstanding, but they confused me. Anyway, thank you very much, I'll keep on using the gerund + of as I also believe it is the correct form. Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 19:13

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