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Gerunds & Gerundives

       It’s time to tackle the least familiar parts of the verb – and the ways you might come across them.

       VDB hopes that these notes will help you to cope with any eventuality in your exam-papers.

     Click on the links in the box below to move quickly to different sections of this page.

 Quick Jump Links
Gerunds:

What is a Gerund?

The Gerund in English

Latin Gerunds

Practice Examples

Gerundives:

Introduction

Gerundive Attraction

Gerundive of Obligation

Practice Sentences

 

 

 


 

 

 GERUNDS

 

      'What is a Gerund, Sir?'

It is almost impossible to start any survey of the uses of Gerunds & Gerundives without referring to the immortal Molesworth books (if you haven't read them, find them immediately!) The one entitled 'How To Be Topp' (sic) explains various ruses and schemes to cheat your way to success in different school subjects (from the point of view of Nigel Molesworth, the world's laziest Prep School boy).

When he gets to Latin, he has to admit however that the only way really is to WORK ('chiz chiz…'); so instead he outlines a few ways to distract the teacher and thereby get the odd brief moment of respite.

One trick that never fails (he claims) is to put up your hand and ask, earnestly: "What is a Gerund, Sir?" This, he says, will cause the master (who has no idea) to stutter, clutch the desk and flip his way surreptitiously underneath it through the pages of Kennedy's Shortbread Eating Primer until he finds the relevant bit, giving the class at least a couple of minutes off….

Fortunately for you, VDB has already done the necessary research, so you need have no fears about the advice you are about to get (although you should definitely still look at the cartoon strip in the above-mentioned book - entitled   'The Private Life of the Gerund' - to get the complete picture).

 

 

         The Gerund in English

   A Gerund is actually a Noun formed from a Verb - having the meaning of the basic idea of that verb; it ends in the letters "-ING" and can often take an Object:

  e.g.  "I'd like the chance of MEETING Emma Watson"
          "Nobody likes WAITING for the bus"
         
"My favourite hobby is COLLECTING Mars-bar wrappers"

 

 You may notice, of course, that exactly the same ending is used for Present Participles in English. The difference is that with a Participle, the word is used as an adjective, rather than a noun. If you want to be sure which one you have, try the following method:

       REPLACE THE "---ING" VERB WITH AN INFINITIVE ('To …….'). IF IT STILL MAKES SENSE, IT WAS A GERUND:

       "I'd like the chance TO MEET Emma Watson"
      
"Nobody likes TO WAIT for the bus"
       
"My favourite hobby is TO COLLECT …."

 

  Try it with this one and you'll see the difference:

       "I noticed my friend TRYING not to laugh"
      
"I noticed my friend TO TRY not to laugh……..???"  It's a participle!

 

          Gerunds in Latin

   For once, the formation of a Gerund is quite simple. The Present Stem is used with an ending (see chart below) which, being a noun, declines (equally simply) like the 2nd neuter noun BELLUM (not all cases are needed, as you will see below).

            

Conjugation

Latin Gerund

English Meaning

1.

AMANDUM

LOVING

2.

MONENDUM

ADVISING

3.

REGENDUM

RULING

3½.

CAPIENDUM

TAKING

4.

AUDIENDUM

LISTENING

 

 

       There is only one verb which has an IRREGULAR Gerund:

              EO (and its compounds):  EUNDUM  - Going

        Neither 'SUM' nor its compounds have Gerunds.

 

How Gerunds are used
 

        Gerunds are not so common in Latin. This is because for a lot of the time, they preferred actually to use an Infinitive, rather than the Gerund, because the meaning was the same; this especially happened when the verbal idea was the actual Subject or Object in the sentence:

        e.g. "I hate WRITING essays"
                  ( = 'I hate
TO WRITE…..')

               "LEARNING a foreign language can be very useful"
                   ( = 'It can be very useful
TO LEARN…..')

       
      In fact, it would have been grammatically incorrect to use a Gerund in Latin in sentences like these.

 

    You will be most likely to meet Gerunds used in one of FOUR ways:

     1.   In the GENITIVE case

             e.g. " …. the chance OF GOING to the city."


    
2.  In the ABLATIVE case (this is the only time an Infinitive can't be substituted with the same meaning)

             e.g.  "He escaped from the dog BY RUNNING very fast"


    
3.  In the ACCUSATIVE case, after the Preposition "AD" - here with the specialised meaning "FOR THE PURPOSE OF…."

              e.g.  "They hired a boat FOR THE PURPOSE OF SAILING to the island"

    
                 4.  In the GENITIVE case again, with the uncommon Preposition  "CAUSA" - which is strange not only that it takes the Genitive, but because it also is written AFTER its noun (or in this case, Gerund).

                     It has the (very similar) meaning "FOR THE SAKE OF…."
            
            
e.g.  "I climbed the wall FOR THE SAKE OF SEEING more clearly"

 

  You may notice that these last two uses have almost the same meaning as a PURPOSE CLAUSE. In fact, Romans did often convey the idea of Purpose using gerunds like this rather than Ut or Ne with the Subjunctive.

 

          SO: CASES NOT NEEDED ARE…… 

       Nominative:   They used the Infinitive instead as mentioned above

       Vocative:  You are unlikely to say 'Hi' to a Gerund

      'Straight' ACCUSATIVE (i.e. direct object):  Infinitive used again

       Dative:  well, OK, they do exist in the Dative, but you are highly unlikely to meet one, and I'm not going to bother with them here….!

 

    PRACTICE SENTENCES AS EXAMPLES

        Here are just a couple of each type to give you a chance to try recognising which is which. Highlight the 'Answer' line to see if you got the meaning right.

 

    1.  E  PERICULO  EFFUGERE  CONAMUR  IN  URBE  MANENDO.
Type:  Ablative
Answer: We are trying to escape the danger by staying in the city.

 

    2.  MATER  DOMUM   AD  DORMIENDUM  REDIIT.
Type:  AD + acc
Answer:  Mother has gone home to have a sleep ('for the purpose of sleeping').
 

 

    3.  PATER  MIHI  OCCASIONEM  BENIGNE  DEDIT  AD  GRAECIAM  EUNDI.
Type:  Genitive
Answer:  My father has kindly given me the opportunity of going to Greece.

 

    4.  IUVENES  POST  MURUM  SE  CELAVERUNT  MELIUS  AUDIENDI  CAUSA.
Type:  Gen + CAUSA
Answer:  The young men hid behind the wall so they could listen better ('for the sake of hearing better').
 

 

   5.  DUX   PLURES  COPIAS   MITTIT  AD  HODIE  OPPUGNANDUM.
Type:
  AD + acc
Answer:  The general is sending more troops for the purpose of attacking today.
 

 

   

    6.  PUERI  IN  AGROS  FESTINAVERUNT  LUDENDI  CAUSA.
Type: 
Gen + CAUSA
Answer: 
The boys hurried into the fields to play ('for the sake of playing').  

 

    7.  CELERITER  CONTENDENDO,  EXERCITUS  AD  MARE  DECIMA  HORA  ADVENIT.
Type: 
Ablative
Answer:
By marching quickly, the army reached the sea in the late afternoon.

 

    8.  ARS  BENE  LOQUENDI  NON  OMNIBUS  EST  FACILIS.
Type: 
Genitive
Answer: 
The art of speaking well is not easy for everybody. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

GERUNDIVES

 

  However much Molesworth's Gerunds might have looked down their noses at Gerundives, the truth is that they are far more common (come to think of it, that might explain the 'social snobery''!)

  To make matters a little more complicated, how's this for a 'definition' of a Gerundive: it is an ADJECTIVE formed from a Gerund (that actually makes it an adjective formed from a noun formed from a verb….).

  However, they have uses that, although complicated, are very satisfying once you have cracked what's going on.

The two structures are usually known as:

               1.  GERUNDIVE ATTRACTION

               2. GERUNDIVE OF OBLIGATION

 

Firstly, though, this is how they are formed:

      TAKE THE GERUND, and REPLACE THE ---UM (noun ending)

                                                           WITH ---US -A -UM (adjective).

 

            e.g. MITTENDUS -a -um

      The MEANING depends on which of the two uses you have.

 

GERUNDIVE ATTRACTION

 

             Are you attracted to Gerundives…? Quite a lot of Latin nouns were. This structure occurs when a Gerund, in one of the four uses listed previously, is followed by a Direct Object - something that happens far more often than not, which explains why you don't see Gerunds nearly as often as Gerundives.

        It was, in fact, quite hard to invent enough sensible sentences to give you examples of the Gerund uses above - it's much more likely that you'll need an Object too.

        Take, therefore, a sentence such as:

      e.g.  He escaped by climbing.
              EFFUGIT  ASCENDENDO.

        So far so good, but we'd presumably like to know what he climbed:

       e.g.  He escaped by climbing a tree.

         You would expect that, since 'tree' has just been added as the object of the verb 'climb', you could just insert it in the Accusative.

        e.g.  EFFUGIT  ASCENDENDO  ARBOREM.

         You would be wrong.

          The 'stylish' way to write this in Latin involved a more complicated process of 'mutual attraction'.

          FIRSTLY - the object noun became 'attracted' into the CASE of the Gerund;

           THEN - the Gerund itself became 'attracted' to the noun, and changed its ending to agree with it (thereby magically transforming itself into a Gerundive - the adjective form)

            The whole thing was then written with the Gerundive at the end of the phrase (unless it is the use with 'causa' which goes last of all); so our example ends up:

          e.g.  EFFUGIT  ARBORE  ASCENDENDA  ( both Abl. sing. endings; 'tree' being feminine).

 Here's another example:

     e.g.  The boy ran to the forum for the sake of watching the soldiers

     PUER  AD  FORUM  CUCURRIT  MILITUM  SPECTANDORUM  CAUSA

               (This could of course have been done using UT instead)

 

 

  TRANSLATING  INTO  ENGLISH

 

            Although the actual structure is complicated, it is a bit easier to translate Gerundives of this type into English.

              Firstly, decide which of the 4 ways (as with the Gerunds above) you have got: this is not as hard as it sounds, as "ad" and "causa" are give-aways, and the Ablative case is quite easy to spot too.

            Then, starting with the idea of the usage you have, translate the GERUNDIVE first, just as if it were a Gerund; then add the noun, making it sound like the object of that verb:


        
e.g.    FLUMEN  TRANSIERUNT  PONTE  AEDIFICANDO

       Main clause: "They crossed the river….."

       Then  1.  It's the Ablative case usage, so start with "BY…."
                
2. Translate the Gerundive as a Gerund: "BY BUILDING…"
                
3. Add the noun as the object:  "BY BUILDING A BRIDGE."

 

  Another one:

   e.g.   AD GRAECIAM  NAVIGAVIT  AD  FRATREM  PETENDUM

 Main Clause: "He sailed to Greece…."

 Then  1. It's 'Ad + acc' usage, so start "FOR THE PURPOSE OF…."
          
2.  Translate the Gerundive as a Gerund:  "….LOOKING FOR…."
          
3.  Add the noun as the object:  "…..HIS BROTHER."

 Whole sentence:
          
"He sailed to Greece for the purpose of looking for his brother."

  Of course, this can be rephrased into better English if you wish.

  I'll give you some to try yourself when we've looked at the other way Gerundives are used.

 

 

GERUNDIVE OF OBLIGATION

 

           You already know the verb 'DEBEO' - meaning "I ought…"

            Another way of expressing what someone should, or needs to do was achieved using the Gerundive: in fact, the 'normally stated' meaning of a Gerundive has this sense of something needing to be done (passive idea):

        e.g.  NUNC  EST  BIBENDUM
               
Now there is a need for something to be drunk….
                i.e. 
It's time for a drink…!

          One of the nicest ways of understanding this 'need/ought' idea is to consider the meaning of the Gerundive of AMO, in particular the Feminine ending:

        'AMANDA'  - this literally means:
        
'Someone feminine who ought-to-be-loved'

         Know anyone called Amanda?


        How about the word in English
"AGENDA"?
        Literally, it means
'Things (neuter plural -A ending) needing-to-be-done'

                    I hope you're starting to get the idea.

 

 

       HOW IT'S DONE IN LATIN

 

           This can be distinguished from the 'Gerundive Attraction' usages by spotting a couple of other  KEY 'INGREDIENTS' in the sentence:

        1.  There will always be the verb 'SUM' present

        2. The Gerundive is very likely to be in the NOMINATIVE case (unless it's actually also part of an Indirect Statement…..sorry!)

        3.  Very often, there will be a noun in the DATIVE: this is the case used for the person who must or needs to do the verb.

                                                                               
     e.g.   MAGISTER  EST  ROGANDUS  NOBIS

         Literally:  'The master is needing-to-be-asked for us'
        In other words: 'We ought to/need to/must ask the master'.

 

    

    TRANSLATING INTO ENGLISH

 

Once you've spotted these 'ingredients', you know you've got one.

 If you want 'Steps' to follow until you can do it naturally, try:

          Step 1:   Make the Dative word the SUBJECT

          Step 2:  Take note of the tense of 'Sum' and translate accordingly -

                           Present: 'Must/have to/need to…'
                           Imperfect:
'Had to/needed to…'
                           Future:
'Will have to/will need to…'

         Step 3:   Just add the meaning of the verb

         Step 4:   Translate the Nominative noun as the Object (weird, but right!)       

 

   e.g.     URBS  ERAT STATIM  OPPUGNANDA  ROMANIS


     
1.   Dative word becomes the subject:
                 
"The Romans…

      2.  Imperfect tense of Sum:
                 
 "….needed to/had to….

      3. Meaning of verb:
                  
"….attack…

       4.  Nominative noun becomes the object:
                 
 " ….the city….

       5.  So, whole thing:
                 
"The Romans had to attack the city at once".

 

 Sometimes there's either no Nom noun

                                  or  no Dative for the person needing to do it

                                 (or both  are missing!)

         In these situations, it's generally less specific: we've already seen one lacking both these elements above:

                         "NUNC  EST  BIBENDUM"

         i.e.  'Now there is (something) needing-to-be-drunk (for no-one in particular)
       However you look at it, it still means
"Time for a drink"!

 

         Or this one:

                        "ERAT FESTINANDUM"

             i.e. 
"(Something) was needing-to-be-hurried (for who-knows-who)

        Probably the context would tell you who had to hurry:
               
 "They/We/Julius Caesar had to hurry…"

 

      One last example. Can you recognise the famous song of which this is the last verse in Latin? (Hint: 'Lateo' means to 'lie hidden' - or 'hide away')

             HERI
             AMOR  LUSIT  MODO  FACILI
             HODIE  LATENDUM  EST  MIHI
             O CREDO EGO 'HERI'!

 
Highlight the lines below if you have been living in a cave all your life….
(VDB's translation of the rest of the song is available on request!)


         Yesterday
         Love was such an easy game to play
            (literally:  Love played in an easy way)
         Now  I  NEED  a place  TO  HIDE  AWAY
            (literally:  Today there is a needing-to-be-hidden-away for me)
         Oh, I believe in Yesterday

 

 

MIXED GERUNDIVES (PRACTICE SENTENCES)

        Finally, here are some sentences for you to try. Decide which type you have, and follow the advice above.
       
This is VDB's last chance to test you out - so don't expect them to be all that easy!

          

    1.  DOMINUS  SERVIS  DEDIT  OPUS  MURI  AEDIFICANDI.
Type:  Attraction (genitive)
Answer:  The master gave the slaves the job of building a wall.

 

    2. FILIA  MEA  TRISTIS  EST  QUOD  CANIS  INTERFICIENDUS  MIHI  ERIT.
Type:  Obligation
Answer:  My daughter is upset because I'm going to have to put down our dog.

 

    3.  CAPTIVI  ILLI  AD  REGEM  STATIM  DUCENDI  SUNT.
Type:  Obligation
Answer:  Those prisoners must be taken to the king at once.

 

    4.   REMUS  PUTABAT  MURUM  FRATRIS  NON  SATIS  ALTUM  ESSE  AD  URBEM  MUNIENDAM.
Type:  Attraction (Ad + acc)
Answer:  Remus thought that his brother's wall wasn't high enough to protect a city ('for the purpose of fortifying…')

 

    5.  M  PORCIUS  CATO  SEMPER  IN  ORATIONIBUS  DICEBAT  CARTHAGINEM  DELENDAM  ESSE.
Type:  Obligation - but acc case used as it is in an Ind. Statement
Answer:  In his speeches, Marcus Porcius Cato always used to say that Carthage had to be destroyed.

 

    6.  VOBIS  OMNIBUS  AD  FORUM  FESTINANDUM  ERIT  SI  CONSULEM  AUDIRE  CUPITIS.
Type:  Obligation
Answer:  You will all have to hurry to the forum if you want to hear the consul.

 

    7.  NEMO  MULTAM  PECUNIAM  UMQUAM  COMPARAVIT  LIBERIS  DOCENDIS.
Type:  Attraction (ablative)
Answer:  Nobody ever made much money by teaching children…..

 

    8. MOX  OCCASIO  NOSTRIS  DABITUR  HOSTIUM  SUPERANDORUM.
Type:  Attraction (genitive)
Answer:  Our men will soon be given the chance of overcoming the enemy 'Soon the chance will be given to our men…')

 

    9.  MARCO,  CUM  OMNES  AMICOS  AD  CENAM  INVITAVISSET,  PLUS  VINI  ERAT  EMENDUM.
Type:  Obligation
Answer:  Since Marcus had invited all his friends to dinner, he had to buy some more wine.

 

   10.  NUM  HANC  ARBOREM  ASCENDISTI  ILLARUM  PUELLARUM  SPECTANDARUM  CAUSA?
Type:  Attraction (gen + CAUSA)
Answer:  Don't tell me you've climbed this tree to watch those girls!
              ('Surely you haven't climbed….. for the sake of watching…..')
    
   

 

   11.  M CRASSUS  CUPIDITATEM  MAGNAM  HABEBAT  AURI  COMPARANDI
Type: Attraction (genitive)
Answer:  Marcus Crassus had a great love of making money for himself ('…of collecting gold').

 

   12.  PONS  NOBIS  AEDIFICANDUS  MELIOR   EST  AD  FLUMEN  TRANSEUNDUM.
Type: Both! The 'attraction' one is AD + acc.
Answer:  We must build a better bridge to get across the river.

 

   ONE LAST KILLER...:

      CAESAR  NON  MULTO  POST  COGNOVIT  HOSTES  AUFUGISSE,  MILITIBUSQUE  QUAM  CELERRIME  CONTENDENDUM  FUTURUM  ESSE  AD  EOS  CAPIENDOS.
Type: Both!
Answer: Not much later, Caesar realised that the enemy had run away, and that his soldiers would have to march as quickly as possible to catch them.
(Sorry! 'futurum esse' is the future infinitive of 'sum'…..)

 

 

AND WITH THAT, YOU HAVE COMPLETED THIS SURVEY OF THE LANGUAGE STRUCTURES THAT YOU MIGHT MEET AT GCSE.

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF GROUND COVERED.

IF YOU FIND THAT THERE IS A NEEDING-TO-BE-LOOKED-AT-AGAIN FOR YOU FOR THE SAKE OF REVISING…

….I WON'T BE SURPRISED!

GOOD LUCK!