Adverbs, Gerunds, Participles

12 January 2024

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from an English learner named Sidra.

Sidra asks:

I want to know the difference between adverb[s] of frequency and degree and...between participle[s] and gerunds.

Ask a Teacher: Adverbs, Gerunds, Participles
Ask a Teacher: Adverbs, Gerunds, Participles


Thank you for writing, Sidra. First, let's answer your question about adverbs.


Different adverbs show different kinds of information.

Adverbs of time tell us four things: when, how long, how often, and relationship in time.

When something takes place. For example:

I finished the project yesterday.

How long something lasts, or duration.

The class seemed to last forever.

Frequency, or how often something happens.

Sometimes I skip breakfast.

And, the relationship of two things in time.

He still has my laptop.

Adverbs of degree answer the questions "How much/many?" or "To what extent?" For example,

She's staying with us for a bit.

We're fairly certain it's a good idea.

Degree adverbs can also demonstrate intensity. Some show high intensity. These kinds of adverbs are known as amplifiers.

The food was completely gone.

Others show low intensity, called diminishers.

I'm almost finished with the book.

So, adverbs of frequency tell how often, and adverbs of degree tell how much or to what extent.

Now for the second question – the difference between participles and gerunds.

Participles and gerunds

We know that verbs can end in –ing. Participles and gerunds are also words that end in –ing. Let's look at the differences.

When a verb ends in –ing, it is the progressive or continuous aspect. That means the event is incomplete or temporary.

We are listening to the podcast.

She was studying at the library.

Gerunds also have an –ing ending, but they do not act like verbs. A gerund is a noun. This means it can be the subject or object of a sentence. For example:

Listening to music is my favorite hobby.

She loves running.

Participles have an –ing ending, too. They also do not act as verbs. A participle is an adjective. We usually use a participle when we are describing an experience that makes us feel certain emotions. For example:

Her answer was surprising.

In this sentence, the participle "surprising" describes how you feel about "her answer."

Some other words that are often used as participles are amazing, boring, calming, exciting, and worrying.

Please let us know if this explanation has helped you, Sidra.

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And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Gena Bennett.

Gena Bennett wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

a bitadv. a little, a small amount

extentn. the size or amount of something; how much it covers