shifting [verbal noun / gerund]

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WildWest

Senior Member
Turkish
Hello. The first sentence is self-made. The others are from the English-Spanish section of WR Dictionary. The fifth is, however, taken from an episode of "Note To Self", a podcast by WYNC.

1. "Shifting these tables around will help us make room for the band."
2. "Janet watched the shifting of the sand in the wind."
3. "Robert's shifting opinions made it impossible to know what he really thought."
4. "The shifting sand began to form dunes."
5. "There is a continual shifting of attention throughout the day."

It's clear that, in 3 and 4, the word shifting functions as an adjective. Therefore, it is a present participle. In the first, it is a gerund that has its own object following. In 2 and 5, it is followed by the preposition of, which changes the task of shifting in the sentence. What do you call it? What term do you use for such uses of words that have "ing" suffix?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In 2 and 5, it is followed by the preposition of, which changes the task of shifting in the sentence.
    You may be overthinking this one.

    In 2. and 5. shifting is a noun -> a gerund. That is why it is preceded by "the/a".

    Compare:
    "Janet watched the height of the sand in the wind."
    "There is a continual movement of attention throughout the day."

    If it helps you, of the sand and of attention modify height and movement adjectivally.
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Thank you for the replies.

    Yes, they both have articles in front position, which makes them nouns. However, I remember there was a discussion over the word painting. In that thread, if I'm not wrong, the distinction between a verbal noun and a gerund, or something like that, discussed. I thought that these ones above are named differently as well.

    Basically, all I want to know is whether this use goes for all words. I can say "The blocking of the bridge" but I cannot imagine myself saying "The smiling of the little boy". I can't be sure if it sounds logical to people.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    All verbs can make an ing-form and this can take either noun grammar or verb grammar. Nouns have articles, take adjectives, and cannot have objects, so they are connected by 'of' to the verb's object:

    the slow shifting of tables by the staff (the staff shifted tables)

    Verbs take adverbs and objects but not articles:

    Staff slowly shifting tables obscured my view of the band.
    I watched the staff slowly shifting tables.
    The staff are slowly shifting tables.
    With staff slowly shifting tables, the band will never start on time.

    The CGEL (the Cambridge Grammar) calls the noun the gerundial noun, and calls the verb the gerund-participle. It rejects the traditional terms gerund and present participle, since these do not describe the two distinct grammatical uses. Simple verb phrases can go in front of a noun (shifting sands, earth-moving equipment). Some of these have been lexicalized as true adjectives (interesting, boring, exciting, amusing, entertaining).

    The 'of-phrase attached to the gerundial noun can be either the subject or the object of the verb:

    The shifting of the audience in their seats distracted me. (subject)
    The shifting of the tables took a long time. (object)

    This can be ambiguous: the shooting of the hunters.

    Some ing-words related to verbs are fully lexicalized as nouns: painting, building, etching, and so on; and these resemble words with no corresponding verb: scaffolding, wainscoting, ceiling.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    You may find this useful:
    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2360365&p=11859439#post11859439
    In that thread, if I'm not wrong, the distinction between a verbal noun and a gerund, or something like that, discussed.
    Consider:
    1. "The riding of horses is prohibited. -> this is what someone called a "gerund".
    2. "I have a horse and enjoy riding." -> this is what someone called a "verbal noun".
    However, "verbal noun" is an invented/unofficial term - it is a combination of words to explain how 1. and 2. seem to have different nuances.

    Edit:
    "The CGEL (the Cambridge Grammar) calls the noun the gerundial noun, and calls the verb the gerund-participle." - that seems a better idea.

    (Crossposted with etb, who, by definition, is right. :))
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I've seen several people in the forums making the opposite distinction to the one Paul mentions ie
    - "verbal noun" for the ING-form in (2) and (5)
    and
    - "gerund" for the ING-form in (1).
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Thank you for the replies :)

    As entangledbank has stated, the attachment of the "of-phrase" sometimes confuses me—is it the object or subject?

    In 2 and 5 in the original post, would you use only the noun "shift" instead of "shifting"?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In 2 and 5 in the original post, would you use only the noun "shift" instead of "shifting"?
    Shift does not work in 2, but works in 5 with the meaning that the shifts were instantaneous, as opposed to gradual evolutions.
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Shift does not work in 2, but works in 5 with the meaning that the shifts were instantaneous, as opposed to gradual evolutions.
    Could you briefly explain why?

    In some cases I just do not know when to use the "traditional" noun and not to the gerundial noun. For instance, consider these two self-made sentences:

    A. "The introduction of smartphones has changed people's lives throughout the globe." :tick:
    B. "The introducing of smartphones...." :cross:

    Additionally:

    C. "Her smiling made me feel good."
    D. "Her smile made me feel good."
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Her smile made me feel good: The smile itself made me feel good.
    Her smiling made me feel good: Her smiling = The fact that she was smiling -- the action -- made me feel good.

    "The introduction of smartphones ... The introduction of smartphones [= the availability of smartphones] changed people's lives.
    "The introducing of smartphones ..... The act itself of introducing smartphones changed people's lives. :confused:
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Thank you for the reply. Here are some other examples I could think of:

    "The kidnapping of his brother left the family in a state of shock."
    "The abduction of his brother..."

    "Since the establishment of the army, the country's power increased."
    "Since the founding of the army..."

    As far as I can see, there is also an "ing" version for a noun. In those two examples, they mean the same. I just wonder if this goes for all nouns.

    I mean, imagine that a non-native speaker can't think of the word "abduction" in a conversation so he goes with "kidnapping", or similarly with "founding" instead of "establishment".

    Can I apply this to all nouns? Does each noun have an "ing" equivalent derived from its verb? Can you provide me with an example that does not fit, if any?
     
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