I never met a Gerund I didn’t like / by Anthony Gibbins

There is so much to say about Gerunds that this post will only scrape the surface. But, if you are new to Latin, we will at least introduce the Gerund and see how it is used on today’s page.

A Gerund, to use the language of a grammarian, is a Verbal Noun. Marcellus might say ‘I like painting’ in the same way that he might say ‘I like cake’. Can we agree, then, that in this context both painting and cake are Nouns? But only one of these Nouns has a Verbal component, and that is painting. Painting is a Verbal Noun, which is to say that painting is a Gerund.

Now, this is Latin, right? So if a Gerund is a Noun surely it has to have Cases? Yes, indeed, but the Cases of a Gerund are a little strange. Firstly, the Nominative does not look like the other Cases, but is in fact the Infinitive Form of the Verb (which is the Second Principal Part). Secondly, there are two forms of the Accusative Case used for different purposes* – and one of them is also the Infinitive! And thirdly, a Gerund only exists in the Singular – it has by its very nature no Plural. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Let’s take a look at painting, the Four Principal Parts of which are pingo, pingere, pinxi, pictum. Here are the Gerund’s Form for each Case. Don’t worry if the names and uses of the Cases are new or unfamiliar to you. This is something that you will learn.

Nominative:                 pingere

Accusative:                  pingere or pingendum*

Genitive:                      pingendi

Dative:                         pingendo

Ablative:                      pingendo

We will focus on the use of the Ablative Gerund to express how something is achieved. Take a look at this sentence. Marcellus res pulchras facit Marcellus makes beautiful things. res meaning things, and pulchras beautiful. But how does he do it? He does it pingendo by painting. That is the Gerund in the Ablative Case. Marcellus res pulchras pingendo facit Marcellus makes beautiful things by painting. 

The example on today’s page is similar but different. Jessica is described as confecta worn out. From what is Jessica worn out? She is worn out from fleeing. The Four Principal Parts of flee are fugio, fugere, fugi, fugitum. The Ablative Form of the Gerund is fugiendo. Jessica fugiendo confecta est Jessica is worn out from fleeing.

Jessica, worn out from fleeing, was resting briefly on the roof of the bank. She was about-to-return (reventura) to the dumpster to retrieve the hidden suitcase.