gerund and articles

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YourSunlight

Banned
Russian
Hello!

I have a question about the use of the gerund and articles with it.

Can we use it? If yes, in what situations?

I've read here (Useful English: The Gerund) that the gerund actually doesn't take any articles before it - "Unlike nouns, gerunds are not used in the plural or with the definite or indefinite article. If you see an ing-form with an article or in the plural, it is a noun ending in "ing". For example, these are nouns: an old saying; loud singing of the birds; the loading of the goods; railroad crossings; his comings and goings.)"

But this site is Russian, that's why I have doubts. Having doubts, I started searching for more information:

Here (Gerund as Subject, Object or Complement | EnglishClub) I've read that it does take articles and when we use a gerund with an article, it does not usually take a direct object - "The making of the film was fun"

Though the use is still unclear :(((

Could you help me, please?

Thank you in advance!
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I've read here (Useful English: The Gerund) that the gerund actually doesn't take any articles before it - "Unlike nouns, gerunds are not used in the plural or with the definite or indefinite article.
    Nonsense

    See, for example, this entry from Cambridge:

    the comings and goings
    the movements of people arriving at places and leaving places One of our neighbours is always at her window watching the comings and goings of everyone in the street.

    I note that the site you reference is Russian. We often see such misleading information from sites built by non-native speakers.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This raises a lot of questions about what is a gerund and what a noun with no verbal element.

    I think your different sites are using different definitions and that is what lies behind the apparent disagreement.
     
    I think that author on "The Gerund" did a good job. What he or she did not consider is really an issue of gradation
    between pure gerund and verb-fully-become-noun (as in "The painting by Vermeer was stolen").

    There are some fine distinctions: Compare: Shouting at a football match annoys me. and Shouting at a football match is
    something I avoid.

    I note that some grammar books scarcely mention the term 'gerund' since it's a Latin category which doesn't apply well in English.


    Hello!

    I have a question about the use of the gerund and articles with it.

    Can we use it? If yes, in what situations?

    I've read here (Useful English: The Gerund) that the gerund actually doesn't take any articles before it - "Unlike nouns, gerunds are not used in the plural or with the definite or indefinite article. If you see an ing-form with an article or in the plural, it is a noun ending in "ing". For example, these are nouns: an old saying; loud singing of the birds; the loading of the goods; railroad crossings; his comings and goings.)"

    But this site is Russian, that's why I have doubts. Having doubts, I started searching for more information:

    Here (Gerund as Subject, Object or Complement | EnglishClub) I've read that it does take articles and when we use a gerund with an article, it does not usually take a direct object - "The making of the film was fun"

    Though the use is still unclear :(((

    Could you help me, please?

    Thank you in advance!
     
    Here is an example of an English text saying what your Russian text does.

    Gerunds present participles and other -ing forms

    The gerund is a verb which is used as if it were a noun. Since it is a verb, it can not be qualified by an adjective, nor preceded by an article, but it can be modified by an adverb and take a complement (Examples 1 & 2 below).

    2. Living in New York is exciting but rather expensive

    ===

    Your Sunlight:

    SEE (at the site above)--

    4. Areas of possible confusion
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    That's a really good demonstration of the pointlessness of trying to differentiate between a verbal noun and a gerund.
    1. Swimming is very good exercise.
    2. Prolonged swimming is very good exercise.
    So swimming 1. is a gerund, and swimming 2. is a verbal noun. Really :confused:
     
    I generally agree, Andy, because of the gradations problem. BUT, your example and argument can be turned on their head.
    BECAUSE 'swimming' can take an adjective in your example, it's not a gerund.


    That's a really good demonstration of the pointlessness of trying to differentiate between a verbal noun and a gerund.
    1. Swimming is very good exercise.
    2. Prolonged swimming is very good exercise.
    So swimming 1. is a gerund, and swimming 2. is a verbal noun. Really :confused:
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    benny, I think my point is that "swimming" has exactly the same function in both sentences, and it is therefore ludicrous to call one a gerund and one a verbal noun, as if that somehow implied a different function. In both cases it's an "-ing" form functioning as a "verby noun".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    my point is that "swimming" has exactly the same function in both sentences, and it is therefore ludicrous to call one a gerund and one a verbal noun, as if that somehow implied a different function. In both cases it's an "-ing" form functioning as a "verby noun".[...]
    I couldn't agree more Andy.

    And when one book calls them gerunds and the other calls them nouns, it's not surprising that the rules they lay out for them sound different.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Loud shouting at a football match annoys me. <- gerund
    Loudly shouting at a football match is something I avoid. <-Participle. Better as "Shouting loudly at..."
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    This is silly. Let me rephrase all these ridiculous grammar books: The word "gerund" has no meaning in English - it's a Latin term that should be replaced in English by "verbal noun".

    These "verbal nouns" in English are identical in form to the present participle. They can take adjectives, adverbs, and direct objects.

    There; where's the problem?

    I can assure you (with no evidence but common sense) that out of 40 million adult native speakers of English in Britain, not 1% can define the word "gerund"; and by the time I've forgotten this thread tomorrow morning, I'll be one of them. And yet we all use it perfectly every day.

    (Sorry, it's getting late...:(.)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is silly. Let me rephrase all these ridiculous grammar books: The word "gerund" has no meaning in English - it's a Latin term that should be replaced in English by "verbal noun".

    These "verbal nouns" in English are identical in form to the present participle. They can take adjectives, adverbs, and direct objects.

    There; where's the problem?

    I can assure you (with no evidence but common sense) that out of 40 million adult native speakers of English in Britain, not 1% can define the word "gerund"; and by the time I've forgotten this thread tomorrow morning, I'll be one of them. And yet we all use it perfectly every day.

    (Sorry, it's getting late...:(.)
    Well, you've suggested you don't use it much, and I only use it under duress.
     

    YourSunlight

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you, guys, very much!!
    But oh my gosh... How difficult it is!!!! You, native speakers, who can feel what to use are so lucky)))
    What would you say about this specific example?

    They met yesterday to discuss ___ building of a new car prototype.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Easy :D:rolleyes:

    They met yesterday to discuss the building of a new car prototype.
    They met yesterday to discuss building a new car prototype.

    The difficult and pointless bit is being required to pin the label "gerund" on these words.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I am puzzled by the apparent need for learners of English to learn the term gerund. Are they required to do it for exams? I would hope not!

    I first studied languages at school when I was exposed in my first year at age of ten to French, Latin and Ancient Greek.
    Latin does use the term gerund (not to mention gerundive), but when I learned other languages I interpreted the forms of the verb in relation to my native language, English. It would never occur to me to learn the words for participle and gerund in Russian, for example, although obviously the verb forms differ.
    It is clear that the use of the participle in English covers different functions of the verb, but why invent a term to cover certain functions, which are not always easy to distinguish?

    It is enough to refer to the ing-form of the verb (or in many cases the participle). The term adopted in the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (gerund-participle) I find an unfortunate one, since it perpetuates the label gerund.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    The word "gerund" has no meaning in English - it's a Latin term that should be replaced in English by "verbal noun".
    But a verbal noun takes articles and doesn't take direct objects, as a gerund does.

    They met yesterday to discuss the building of a new car prototype. -- noun
    They met yesterday to discuss building a new car prototype. -- gerund
    They met yesterday (while) building a new car prototype. -- participle

    :confused:
     
    I don't see the point in saying " 'gerund' has no meaning in English" as Keith does. The territory is confused and terminology is inconsistent.
    But the word appears in Oxford dictionaries and other tomes. It's defined. It's a word with meaning. CGEL suggests abandoning it, but the
    whole world hasn't rushed to follow.

    gerund noun - Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com

    gerund

    noun

    BrE/ˈdʒerənd/


    a noun in the form of the present participle of a verb (that is, ending in-ing) for example travelling in the sentence I preferred travelling alone
    ==================================


    Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar - Oxford Reference

    Dictionary of English Grammar
    gerund

    The
    -ing form of the verb when used in a partly nounlike way, as in

    No Smoking(in contrast to ...

    ==============

    Further, there are just two main uses, so the terminology is not THAT confused:

    Broad: 'ing' form of verb used as noun.
    Narrow: 'ing' form with some nounlike properties, but not taking determiners or articles.


     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    benny, my objection to it is not that it has no meaning, but that the terminology is inconsistent. It creates confusion - as evidenced by this thread. Trying to differentiate between a verbal noun and a gerund is fruitless because there is no clear dividing line either in form or in function. For that reason alone it would be better if the term was forgotten. Talking about verby gerunds and nouny gerunds is more accurate, but we might just as well call them verby nouns and nouny verbs. The word "gerund" is superfluous. However, I doubt it will be dropped in the near future.
     
    Further details re Keith's remarks:

    This is silly. Let me rephrase all these ridiculous grammar books: The word "gerund" has no meaning in English - it's a Latin term that should be replaced in English by "verbal noun".

    These "verbal nouns" in English are identical in form to the present participle. They can take adjectives, adverbs, and direct objects.

    There; where's the problem?
    ==

    I've already addressed the 'no meaning' claim; it's very odd regarding a word defined in all dictionaries (for English).

    New issues: 1) Replace by 'verbal noun'. This, with all due respect, is not a good idea. Those using 'gerund' in a narrow sense use 'verbal noun' with a precise meaning. Replacing with " ing-form" is a common and better idea.

    2) On the last sentence "take adjectives, adverbs and direct objects". This is inconsistent with your preference
    for 'verbal nouns'. If you focus on the 'noun' character, then adverbs do NOT apply. Nor can there be 'objects'.

    ==
    The strict use of 'gerund' denying determiners; and 'verbal noun' denying objects has something to be said for it.

    How does one explain that this is a bad sentence.

    "The eating shellfish from an unknown source is not a good idea." :cross:
    ===

    Note to Andy: your examples show the value of a distinction.

    [Andy answers Sunlight's example in post #10)

    Easy :D:rolleyes:

    They met yesterday to discuss the building of a new car prototype.
    They met yesterday to discuss building a new car prototype.

    ===

    Why does deleting 'of' in the first sentence create an error?
    Why does inserting 'the', before 'building',
    in the second sentence, create an error?



     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Why does deleting 'of' in the first sentence create an error?
    Why does inserting 'the', before 'building',
    in the second sentence, create an error?
    Because that's how English works. It doesn't demonstrate a need to call something a gerund rather than a verby noun.
     
    Hi Andy,
    You make good points.

    Getting past terminology to substance, would it not be of interest to learners to state the subtle differences of meaning and use in your examples (based on Sunlight's).

    They met yesterday to discuss the building of a new car prototype.
    They met yesterday to discuss building a new car prototype.


    Compare: Building a cathedral often takes centuries. VS. The building of Chartres cathedral took centuries.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Better to compare:
    The building of Chartres cathedral took centuries.
    and
    Building Chartres cathedral took centuries.
    Which have identical meanings, so why get tied in knots over what to call "building"?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    It seems to me far easier to set down rules on usage, than to give different and widely misunderstood names to the words. For example:

    Rule: When using verbal nouns /-ing nouns, either use both article and 'of', or neither.
    The building of Chartres cathedral took centuries. :tick:
    Building Chartres cathedral took centuries. :tick:

    I really don't see the use of calling these two instances of 'building' by two different names; it's already difficult enough for learners to have the present participle (he was busy building Chartres cathedral) and the plain noun (Chartres cathedral is a magnificent building).

    Occam's principle: do not multiply entities unnecessarily.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    How about:

    "The -ing form can be used:

    - As one would use a noun:
    "Using WR can be addictive." = "The use of WR can be addictive."

    - To indicate that a verb is used in the continuous (progressive) form of a tense:
    Past: "I was typing on WR when you phoned."
    Present: "I'm typing on WR; can I call you back?"
    Present perfect: "I've been typing for three hours straight, and I need a break."
    Future: "Tomorrow at this time, I'll be on typing on WR."
    Past perfect: "I had been typing on WR for an hour before I remembered that I had
    intended to go to a WR Users Anonymous meeting."
    In the past tense especially, elision is possible:
    "Speeding along the road, the car squashed a skunk." for "While it was speeding along the road, the car squashed a skunk." /"While the car was speeding along the road, it squashed
    a skunk."

    Got it, learners? Good luck!"

    For me, this about sums it up, but I'm sure I'm forgetting details...

    [And I've got to stop drinking so much German beer!" (Just :Ding - it's too expensive!)]
     
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    I appreciate your views, Keith, and it's a tricky area. I'm mostly going by CGEL, pp 1191-2, where it does indeed suggest
    dispensing with the attempt to demarcate gerund, but what the authors suggest is that there is continuum from deverbal nouns, to verbal nouns to the more purely verbal forms designated as participles. In this continuum, the noun end has constructions with adjectives by no objects, and the verb-form has not allowed adjectives and objects. What's missing in your proposal is a semi systematic set of reasons for 'sometimes it's this and sometimes it's that'.

    Likewise the issue of shifts of meaning does not arise, i.e. from abstract to concrete process (in the 'the' case).

    So while I agree with not multiplying entities, I think the approach focusing on gray areas only goes so far. Yes,
    it's hard to say if 5 pm is day or night. But it's useful to demarcate ends of the polarities. And have the words
    'day' and 'night' even if there's a murky 'dusk' area in between them. The authors of CGEL keep some of these
    markers of and on the continuum, even though they propose to dispense with the word 'gerund.'


    It seems to me far easier to set down rules on usage, than to give different and widely misunderstood names to the words. For example:

    Rule: When using verbal nouns /-ing nouns, either use both article and 'of', or neither.
    The building of Chartres cathedral took centuries. :tick:
    Building Chartres cathedral took centuries. :tick:

    I really don't see the use of calling these two instances of 'building' by two different names; it's already difficult enough for learners to have the present participle (he was busy building Chartres cathedral) and the plain noun (Chartres cathedral is a magnificent building).

    Occam's principle: do not multiply entities unnecessarily.
     
    Hi ATF.
    I appreciate your attempt at a pocket compendium, but you focus on 'the' just following the 'ing' form. The original issue,
    on which you're silent is placing 'the' before the form, sometimes accompanied by 'of' after [to introduce what, in another construction is the DO].

    What readers need is a sense of very noun-ish verbal forms contrasted with (at the other end of the continuum) with very
    verb-ish forms [which may include the DO without 'of', indeed require there being no 'of'].)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I appreciate your views, Keith... What's missing in your proposal is a semi systematic set of reasons for 'sometimes it's this and sometimes it's that'...
    Well, I've two answers there.
    1. There's no (semi) systematic set of reasons because it's a continuum.
    2. And - far more important - the reason is in the mind of the user because that's what language is about.

    To be precise: I can choose whether to say "The making of the film was fun" or "Making the film was fun". The rule is that I put both the+of, or I put neither. But as to which I choose to write, that's my affair - in other words, it's purely a matter of taste.

    Now, I happen to think that it's more 'English', less formal, to omit the+of. But that's my preference, not a rule.

    I also have the option "The film-making was fun", i.e. I'm moving away from the verb (= action) and towards the noun (= process). And my final step towards abstraction is to omit 'The' which gives me: "Film-making was fun". But that introduces the general issue of when to use the definite article, which isn't really at stake here.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    H, benny, I wasn't "silent" about the "original issue [of] placing "the" before the form". I wrote:

    How about:

    "The -ing form can be used:

    - As one would use a noun:
    "Using WR can be addictive." = "The use of WR can be addictive."
    In this situation, if the -ing form is followed by a modifier an article can be placed
    before the -ing form (underlining mine in this post) [...] "I like reading your posts." [...]
    "I
    like reading
    the posts you write." [...] "I like drinking German beer." ...] "I like drinking the
    beer they make in Germany."
    [...]
    And the article needn't be definite, nor need the -ing form be the OD:
    "A good understanding of the company's role in the international marketplace is indispensible." (The ;) -ing form is the subject, and the indefinite article is used.)

    [And of course adjectives can end in "-ing", too: "I have a working knowledge of Xhosa, but I'm not fluent in it."]
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Just read your latest post, Keith. Other possibilities: "The making of the film was fun." (one particular film). "Film-making was fun.", the action of making films in general (which is how I interpret it - you no longer think this is the case) but "The filmmaking was fun." (you're talking about the experience of making a particular film). And why would you "take the final step (from talking about making one film) towards abstraction (talking about making films/film-making in general)?" You're contrasting two different ideas.
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The ideas are out there in the world (and many more than two of them); I choose which one I want to express, that's where words come in, they're the tools which help me convey these ideas.

    The sad thing is when people (usually learners of English as a second language) are taught rules instead of tools.
     
    Hi ATF.

    Sorry I just can't make sense of the following. Yes, you do speak of 'the' before an ing form, but though your colon gives rise to an expectation, there are no examples (nor in material preceding, either):

    ATF in part (my colors, bennymix): "The -ing form can be used:

    - As one would use a noun:
    "Using WR can be addictive." = "The use of WR can be addictive."
    In this situation, if the -ing form is followed by a modifier an article can be placed

    before the -ing form and a preposition can be placed between the -ing form and the modifier:
    "I like reading WR posts.", "I like reading your WR posts.";
    "I like reading the posts (that) you write." / "I like reading posts (that are) written by you."
    ===


    So I stick with my assessment; the issue of articles before 'ing' forms is not addressed; no examples are given or discussed.

    The OP's issue of gerunds vs. 'verbal nouns', which is connected with the issue of possible article or adjectives preceding is not addressed. The gerund, narrowly defined, does not take an article.
    (gerund being an 'ing' form with some properties of a noun, but not fully nominalized).

    ---
    I appreciate your efforts to clarify and maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see some issues getting addressed in your 'compendium' post #27, 12-13, 6:19 am.
     
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    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    You're right, benny, I wasn't clear (in my own mind, apparently) as to what I wanted to say.

    "Upon further review", the part from "In this situation..." to and including "...made in Germany." doesn't address the 'article before -ing form' question. It wasn't too late to delete it; thanks for calling this to my attention.

    But I do think that both 'the' and 'a/an' can be used before the -ing form. I gave a sentence with 'a' in another thread deleted by me. ("An understanding of the company's role in the international marketplace is necessary."); here are couple with and without 'the', both of which are OK by me: "The eating of treated meat products is strongly discouraged./"Eating treated meat products is strongly discouraged."

    Why we must (I think) say 'the' and 'of' in the first sentence but neither in the second is a whole 'nother can of fish (or kettle of worms); KB's "Rule" in #26 (12/10, 11:49 pm) sounds sound (sorry, it's stronger than I am, and it's too late to cure me of the wordplay bug).

    Andy's post of 12/10, 8:18 am EST & yours of 12/10, 8:00 pm, to name but a couple, are also pertinent.

    Edited to add spaces in an effort to increase clarity. Cagey, moderator
     
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