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English as a Second Language/Present continuous tense or gerund?


Dear Amy,

Look at this sentence: "The only cure is dying."
How to figure out whether "dying" is part of the present continous tense verb form (is dying) or it is a gerund preceded by the verb 'to be'?

Best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Hi Antoine,

In the sentence you asked about "dying" is a gerund.

Here are some rules that should help you tell apart gerunds from the present continuous:

The gerund has the same function as a noun (although it looks like a verb), so it can be used:

as the subject of the sentence
>>> Drinking plenty of water is healthy.
>>> Shopping is my favorite thing.

after prepositions
>>> Can we pass this class without taking the final test?
>>> My sister is good at writing poems.

after certain verbs (like, hate, admit, imagine)
>>> Mary likes swimming.
>>> He hates texting.

in compound nouns
>>> swimming pool
>>> bird watching

When you deal with the a present continuous, you have an action that is happening and is likely to continue.
>>> The neighbor's dog is barking.
>>> My students are working on a community project.
>>> She is watching a movie.

I hope this helps.

Looking forward to more of your interesting questions.

Best regards,


English as a Second Language

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Amy Baker


I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.


I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

BSc MEd TESL post grad program for k-12 TESL post grad program for adult ed

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