The UK Guardian recently had a grammar quiz on their website. Naturally I couldn’t resist giving it a go. It was a big relief that I managed to get them all right. However I couldn’t help smiling at the question about the gerund. I can never think of the Gerund without remembering The Molesworth books by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, written from the perspective of a boy at a truly dreadful old English Boarding school. Their cartoon of the Gerund meant I never forgot what one was.
Interestingly it was deliberately littered with spelling errors (foopball being my favourite). Given all the debate over the spelling in Diary of Wimpy Kid, it reminds me that there’s nothing new in literature and that enjoying books with deliberate spelling error did me no harm as a kid.
Whenever people ask me about correct grammar, I always say that, ultimately, grammar is simply a tool to make meaning clear. If the meaning of a sentence is clear then, at a basic level, the grammar is correct. Of course by observing traditional rules of grammar correctly, you can make your writing more impressive, as well as clearer.
In case you’re wondering what a gerund is – it’s using the present participle of a verb as a noun:
‘Bruno’s banging on about the gerund was silly.’
‘We enjoyed the choir’s singing’