Uses of the Gerund (Gerund vs. Gerundive)

Summary of the Gerund (p1/3)

Summary of Use

The gerund is a verb noun, as the English gerund, which ends in -ing

  • Reading is a doorway.

The gerund is a (neuter singular) genitive, dative, accusative or ablative declension of the gerundive, the fourth principle part of the Latin noun

  • moneō, monēre, monuī, monitus (for the gerund, imagine monitum)

An important distinction between English and Latin gerunds: Latin gerunds appear only in the oblique cases.

Where a nominative is needed, Latin uses the infinitive

  • Reading is a doorway: legēre porta est.
  • The habit of reading is a doorway: mōs legendī porta est.

Gerund vs. Gerundive

Ideally, the gerundive, a verbal adjective, will agree with its corresponding noun, while the gerund, a verbal noun, remains neuter singular

  • This isn’t helpful when working with neuter nouns

Here are some examples that we can distinguish:

  • He had a design of taking the city: ratiō urbis capiendae tenuit. (gerundive)
  • He had a design of taking the city: ratiō urbem capiendī tenuit. (gerund)
  • The phrase urbis capiendae is entirely feminine, but the phrase urbem capiendī sees a neuter verbal noun with a feminine accusative object
  • Here, the gerundive is preferred

Here’s a more challenging example:

  • I occupied myself in the forum, the Curia and the defense of my friends: in forō, in cūriā, in amīcōrum perīculīs prōpulsandīs
  • First, note that gerunds and gerundives may be placed in apposition to nouns
  • Second, see that perīculum is neuter (dative or ablative), but prōpellō takes an accusative direct object
  • Therefore, prōpulsandīs must be agreeing with perīculīs, and this must be a gerundive construction
  • The (more awkward) gerund equivalent: in amīcōrum perīcula prōpulsandīs 

A gerund with a direct object is rare, so don’t let it worry you

The Essential AG: §501-503

Famous Phrase: tenet insānābile multōs scrībendī cacoethes

(the insatiable itch of writing grips many) -Juvenal, Saturās, 7.51