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Thread: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

  1. #21
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    Hello Sutemi,

    How can you at once 1. talk of 'failing admitting speeding' as a triple gerund, and then 2. say that failing is a preposition (ie. not a gerund)?

    When used as a preposition, failing is usually followed by a noun other than a gerund - Failing an admission of speeding, the case will go to court would be idiomatic in my view.
    That's because I use "gerund" and "ing-form" interchangeable. Which is wrong and I see that now.
    I understand that a preposition is usually followed by a noun, but still it doesn't the away the fact (I assume it's a fact) that you can say "failing admitting speeding".

  2. #22
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Sutemi View Post
    That's because I use "gerund" and "ing-form" interchangeable. Which is wrong and I see that now.
    I understand that a preposition is usually followed by a noun, but still it doesn't the away the fact (I assume it's a fact) that you can say "failing admitting speeding".
    I think you need to be careful what you assume to be 'facts'.

  3. #23
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    I think you need to be careful what you assume to be 'facts'.
    Thank you for the words of wisdom my friend

  4. #24
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Could you find an example in the British Corpus of a gerund after failing, the preposition? I couldn't.

    It's always difficult on the forum when people talk about facts when the 'facts' seem to be anything but.

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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion View Post
    Could you find an example in the British Corpus of a gerund after failing, the preposition? I couldn't.

    It's always difficult on the forum when people talk about facts when the 'facts' seem to be anything but.
    We use the Gerund after prepositions.
    Source: http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/gra...ions_verbs.htm

    List of English prepositions - Single Word - failing
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...h_prepositions

    It clearly says that after a preposition, you put the verb in the gerund.
    It also clearly says that "failing" is a preposition in the English language.
    Is it clearer now? If not, then, honest to God, I don't know how to explain it any better than this.

  6. #26
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    I'm puzzled that this thread has lasted this long.

    "Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court." seems completely wrong to me.

    "Failing" isn't a preposition, to my mind, whatever wikipedia might say**; and even if it were, I'm not sure the sentence would work.

    That said, if Sutemi's question is really:
    Quote Originally Posted by Sutemi View Post
    [...]can you have triple gerunds?
    my answer is "yes, I don't see why not".

    Though I can't think of an example at the moment....

    ------

    ** EDIT: I subsequently had a re-think about this: see post 37 below.
    Last edited by Loob; 27th January 2013 at 7:36 PM.
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  7. #27
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Sutemi View Post
    Source: http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/gra...ions_verbs.htm


    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...h_prepositions

    It clearly says that after a preposition, you put the verb in the gerund.
    It also clearly says that "failing" is a preposition in the English language.
    Is it clearer now? If not, then, honest to God, I don't know how to explain it any better than this.
    The problem is that the language can't be constructed like building bricks.

    I'm quite prepared to accept that failing can mean very much the same as in the absence of or without; so I'm happy to accept that it can perform the function of a preposition.

    It's true that if you can use a verb form after a preposition, that verb form is usually a gerund - eg. Without explaining this thoroughly I'm not going to be able to make my point.

    But there are some prepositions and prepositional phrases after which a verb form cannot easily be used: failing and in the absence of are two examples, it seems to me.

    That's how I see it. This all means that the form of the sentence in the OP is, I agree with Loob, 'completely wrong'.
    Last edited by Thomas Tompion; 27th January 2013 at 6:24 AM. Reason: typo

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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    If we start by calling "failing" a preposition, then what follows must be in "ing" form to function as complement of that preposition; it's what traditional grammar calls "gerund." At first glance, "admitting" meets that requirement; that is, "admitting" can function like a noun. However, here, "admitting" has its own complement, "speeding," which makes "admitting" a verb. And that's a problem; "admitting" behaves in two ways: as a noun (complement of the preposition "failing") and as a transitive verb (with "speeding" as its complement). Insisting that "admitting" is a gerund (noun) and not a verb still poses a problem, because then we would have a "noun" ("speeding") complementing another "noun" ("admitting"), which is not something that nouns normally do. Failing an admission of speeding has everything in its proper place: the noun "admission" as complement of the preposition "failing," and a prepositional phrase as modifier of that noun (prepositional phrases commonly function as modifiers of nouns). Can you have triple gerunds? Yes, but I would place them in commas so that they are isolated and not able to take complements (which would render them verb-like): He admits to lying, cheating, stealing. The other solution is simply to call these words "ing," and so you could have three consecutive "ing" words (I wasn't expecting going shopping) without worrying how each "ing" word functions in the sentence.
    Cheers

  9. #29
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    1. Well, gerunds can have complements, right? "Eating apples is good for your health," for instance.

    And gerunds can have complements that are gerunds: "Curbing spending is a main stated aim of the Republican Party."

    Presumably, gerunds could have gerunds for complements that themselves have complements, and those complements could have gerunds: "Slowing increasing spending will be necessary if we want to sustain fiscal growth."

    In other words, I don't think there's a problem with stacking three gerunds, and it doesn't make any of them into finite verbs. It is very inelegant - English doesn't like phrases like this that are very rhyme-y and jangly, and the stacking of all the words in the same form makes their relationship hard to understand. I'm willing to say that they could always be re-written in more satisfying ways, which will make them relatively rare in the wild (see also: three-infinitive stacks, which are less jarring to the ear but also look ugly: "to start to try to learn to bake pavlova").

    2. Whether "failing" is a preposition or participle is unimportant. It's certainly acting as an absolute modifier, as wandle points out (post #17). On another note, prepositions don't "take gerunds," they take nouns (and gerunds are nouns).

    3. We haven't yet seen a three-gerund-stack in this thread (except perhaps my execrable "slowing increasing spending"). "Failing admitting speeding" only has two gerunds; Paul's "Missing fishing, wishing raining stopping" has two participles and three gerunds.

  10. #30
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Thank you all so much for the replies so far. It seems that the problem may not be that "failing admitting speeding" is wrong, but that it seems unnatural, not English and - as Lucas pointed out - inelegant.
    I'd also like to apologise for confusing all ing-forms as gerunds. Honestly, I thought that ing-form automatically makes any word a gerund. I will not make this mistake again.

  11. #31
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Hullo, lucas.

    gerunds can have complements
    prepositions don't "take gerunds," they take nouns (and gerunds are nouns)

    Bestest.

    GS

  12. #32
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    It does seem to me that we have reached a sad stage in the decline of English grammar if people can seriously regard the word 'failing' as a preposition.

    That 'theory' seems to me the sort of desperate expedient someone might hit on in an exam when asked to explain a phrase such as 'failing new evidence' when they do not know that is a participial absolute construction, analogous to 'God willing' or 'other things being equal'.

    The only difference in this case is that the participle 'failing' has been placed first for the sake of emphasising (a) that it is the most important idea and (b) the conditional sense of the phrase ('should new evidence fail to appear' or 'if new evidence does not emerge').
    Last edited by wandle; 27th January 2013 at 12:05 PM.

  13. #33
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by wandle View Post
    It does seem to me that we have reached a sad stage in the decline of English grammar if people can seriously regard the word 'failing' as a preposition.

    That 'theory' seems to me the sort of desperate expedient someone might hit on in an exam when asked to explain a phrase such as 'failing new evidence' when they do not know that is a participial absolute construction, analogous to 'God willing' or 'other things being equal'.

    The only difference in this case is that the participle 'failing' has been placed first for the sake of emphasising (a) that it is the most important idea and (b) the conditional sense of the phrase ('should new evidence fail to appear' or 'if new evidence does not emerge').
    I'm confused. Many sources say that "failing" is (also) a preposition:
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dict...lish/failing_2
    http://grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/prepositerm.htm (Deverbal Prepositions)
    http://www.enchantedlearning.com/wor...ositions.shtml
    http://www.thefreeresource.com/prepo...-with-examples

    I don't know what to believe anymore.

  14. #34
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Deverbal Prepositions? Now I have heard everything. Not even the term 'deverbal' makes sense.
    It does demonstrate the lengths human ingenuity can go in creating alternative explanations instead of the real one.

    It is depressing to see self-respecting participles solemnly listed in those links as prepositions.
    The root cause of the error seems to me be a simple failure to understand the phrase as a phrase equivalent to a clause, and as a result to treat 'failing' as if it could be understood as a single word.
    In the field of translation, this type of error is seen when people try to translate word for word.

  15. #35
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Sutemi View Post
    As you say, lots of dictionaries class it as a preposition, so I'd believe them. I don't know if we have people here who will say that without is not a preposition. We shall see perhaps.

    It occurs to me that the gerund after failing might almost work if it was made specific to a person: Failing his admitting to speeding is much more acceptable than the phrase in the OP. I'm not saying it's better than the simple and clear If he doesn't admit to speeding.


  16. #36
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    There's nothing wrong with "deverbal" - it just means "coming from a verb." Lots of words in English have come from verbs but have meanings that cannot be exactly reduced to the underlying verb. For instance, look at "sheet metal siding": "siding" is a deverbal noun, coming from the verb "to side," but when we hear "sheet metal siding" we don't "unpack" the word "siding" into a phrase with a finite use of the verb "to side."

    Other examples of deverbal prepositions include "concerning," "following," etc. Perhaps you can notice how these words take up new, not-quite-verbal-anymore, uses when you look at a sentence like "Following the movie, we had coffee." It's very hard to "unpack" "following" into a relative clause with the verb "to follow." The point is that it takes on a new use that's not entirely reducible to its use as a verbal word like a participle or gerund. (For a deverbal noun, try "His work gained a large following.")

  17. #37
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Sutemi View Post
    I'm confused. Many sources say that "failing" is (also) a preposition:
    [...]

    I don't know what to believe anymore.
    Having pondered some more and read later posts, I think I should modify my comment in post 26.

    I think I'd accept "failing" as a preposition in more-or-less set expressions like Failing all else. So instead of saying "Failing" isn't a preposition, to my mind, I should probably have said To my mind, "failing" is a preposition only in a restricted set of contexts.

    I'm sorry to have contributed to your confusion, Sutemi.
    Last edited by Loob; 27th January 2013 at 7:37 PM.
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  18. #38
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by lucas-sp View Post
    There's nothing wrong with "deverbal" - it just means "coming from a verb."
    'Verbal' means 'coming from a verb'. For example, a gerund is a verbal noun.
    'Deverbal' does not make any sense that I can see. 'De-' is used as a prefix with the sense of 'remove', as in 'decorticated', 'deracinated' etc.

    A 'deverbed' preposition would be one with the verb removed, but that still makes no sense, unless you started from a preposition which contained a verb.

    Words like 'siding' and 'following' in those examples are gerunds with a derivative meaning: the product or result of the action, rather than the action itself. This is normal. They are still verbal nouns.

    Words like 'following' and 'concerning' are different from 'failing' as in 'failing new evidence'.

    I can see an argument for calling 'following' and 'concerning' in such contexts prepositional participles (not sure if I agree), but not 'deverbal' anything, since the sense of the verb has to remain, or they will lose their semantic meaning.
    Last edited by wandle; 27th January 2013 at 7:37 PM.

  19. #39
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    The digital OED has this:
    failing, prep.
    [The pr. pple. of fail v., used either with intrans. sense in concord with the following n. or pron. (failing this = ‘if this fail’), or in trans. sense with the n. etc. as object (failing this = ‘if one fail this’).]
    [my emphasis]
    In default of.

    The citations go back to 1810 and include Wordsworth and Carlyle.

  20. #40
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    Re: Failing admitting speeding, the case will go to court

    Quote Originally Posted by Loob View Post
    Having pondered some more and read later posts, I think I should modify my comment in post 26.

    I think I'd accept "failing" as a preposition in more-or-less set expressions like Failing all else. So instead of saying "Failing" isn't a preposition, to my mind, I should probably have said To my mind, "failing" is a preposition only in a restricted set of contexts.

    I'm sorry to have contributed to your confusion, Sutemi.
    No problem Loob. I'm more intrigued than confused, I must admit.
    Too bad I'm not able to edit OP. I'd like to change all "gerund" into "-ing-form".
    But I still think that you can say "failing admitting speeding", even though it's not the first option a native speaker would choose. But we can have alternative, but still correct, ways to say things. At least it seems that the opinions are somewhat divided.

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