Lesson 23 – Gerunds and gerundives

Gerunds

A gerund is what is called a verbal noun. This means that it occupies a middle ground between a verb and a noun and shows characteristics of both. It is active in meaning and only exists in the singular form.

Gerund: Verbal noun

Verb properties Noun properties
A gerund is formed from a verb

A gerund can be described using an adverb

A gerund can govern a case

A gerund declines like a neuter singular noun

The gerund is formed by removing the ‘-s’ from the present participle, adding ‘-d’, and then the relevant ending and is translated in English by ‘-ing’

Verb Present participle (adjective) Gerund (noun)
Latin English Latin English Latin English
vocare (1) to call vocans calling vocandum calling
habere (2) to have habens having habendum having
mittere (3) to send mittens sending mittendum sending
audire (4) to hear audiens hearing audiendum hearing

Deponent verbs also have gerunds that are formed in a similar way.

For example:

Verb Present participle Gerund
Latin English Latin English Latin English
ingredior (3) to enter ingrediens entering ingrediendum entering

When you decline a gerund, it will look like a neuter singular noun in Group 2 across all
the cases, except for the nominative, where it will rarely appear.

Conjugation 1 Conjugation 2 Conjugation 3 Conjugation 4
Nominative
Accusative vocandum habendum mittendum audiendum
Genitive vocandi habendi mitendi audiendi
Dative vocando habendo mittendo audiendo
Ablative vocando habendo mittendo audiendo

In each case the gerund is translated slightly differently and is often preceded by a particular preposition.

Preposition Gerund English
Nominative
Accusative ad vocandum with a view to calling, towards calling
Genitive causa vocandi of calling, for the sake of calling
Dative vocando to/for calling
Ablative ab, de, ex, in, pro vocando about/by/from/in/concerning calling

Handy hint

You will notice examples of Latin gerunds still in use in modern English today.

For example:

Modus vivendi – a way/style of living
Modus operandi – a way/style of working

Gerundives

A gerundive is what is called a verbal adjective. This means that it occupies a middle ground between a verb and an adjective and shows characteristics of both. It is passive in meaning and exists in both the singular and plural form.

Gerundive: Verbal adjective

Verb properties Noun properties
A gerundive is formed from a verb. A gerundive changes in form to agree in gender, number and case with the noun it is associated with.

The gerundive is formed by removing the ‘-m’ from the gerund and adding ‘-s’.

Gerund Gerundive
Latin English Latin English
vocandum calling vocandus, -a, -um to be called
habendum having habendus, -a, -um to be had
mittendum sending mittendus, -a, -um to be sent
audiendum hearing audiendus, -a, -um to be heard

The gerundive has the same endings as a Group 1 and 2 adjective, such as ‘bonus, -a, -um’, and is usually translated into English with the words ‘to be’ followed by the past participle.

Handy hint

It is important to note that the gerundive does not have an exact translation into English, and in order to convey the idea of obligation or suitability inherent in its meaning, translations can include such forms as ‘fit to be’, ‘must be’ and ‘ought to be’.

Uses of the gerundive

1. One of the most common uses of the gerundive in medieval documents is the phrase ‘habendum et tenendum’, which you may well come across abbreviated to ‘habend et tenend’.

For example:

Dedit messuagium habendum et tenendum Barnabe
He gave the messuage to be had and to be held to Barnabas

Or in a more recognisable construction:

He gave the messuage to have and to hold to Barnabas

2.  It is often used with the verb ‘esse’ to convey necessity or obligation.

For example:

Cultura danda est
The furlong must be/should be/ought to be given

Handy hint

You will notice examples of Latin gerundives still in use in modern English today.

For example:

Amanda – (a girl) fit to be loved
Miranda – (a girl) fit to be admired
Memoranda – things to be remembered
Agenda – things to be done

Checklist

Are you confident with:

  • The meaning of a gerund?
  • The form of a gerund?
  • The meaning of a gerundive?
  • The form of a gerundive?

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