with thanks to David Cramer
I. The gerund is a verbal noun, just as the participle is a verbal adjective. That is, just as the participle is a verbal form that functions as an adjective, the gerund is a verbal form that functions as a noun. You must be careful, however, because in English both the gerund and the present participle end in -ing. You will have no problem, however, if you ask yourself whether the verbal form is adjectival or substantival. Noun or Adjective?
Leaving the theater, we ran into our friends. ("Leaving" = adj. modifying "we")
I like running. ("running" = a noun, the direct object of "like")
We saw a man running across the field. ("running" = an adj. modifying "man")
Swimming is fun. ("Swimming" = a noun, modified by the adj. "fun")
As a noun, the gerund, like all nouns, is governed by other words in the sentence. It may be the indirect object, an ablative of means, etc. As a verb, it may, in theory, take an object of its own in the proper case. E.g.:
N.B. We expect this construction by analogy with other constructions in Latin, but Latin authors, especially prose authors, tend to avoid it.
III. The Romans felt hesitant about using a gerund with a direct object, since they did not feel that it had a strong enough verbal connotation to govern a direct object. Therefore, when the gerund would have an object in the accusative case, Latin prefers to put this noun (the one which would be the direct object) in the case in which the gerund would appear, and to use the gerundive, in agreement with that noun:
The gerundive is a passive participle agreeing (like all adjectives) with a noun; the gerund is an active verbal noun.
IV. Two expressions with the gerund or gerundive may be used to express purpose.
V. Finally, the gerundive is used with the verb esse and a dative of agent to express obligation in the passive periphrastic.
With the passive periphrastic, the person who needs to do the action is expressed with a dative ("dative of agent")
N.B. The verb esse is often left out in the passive periphrastic, especially in the indirect statement.
Sample ExCET-type questions:
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