'The' before a gerund subject followed by 'of'. The cutting of trees...

Englishmypassion

Senior Member
India - Hindi
Hi all,
Should I use 'the' before a gerund subject followed by 'of' in bookish, formal English? I think I should. Please make it grammatically clear to me.Which ones of these are correct?
1. The cutting of trees causes many environmental problems.
2. Cutting of trees causes many environmental problems.
3. The breaking of rocks forms soil.
4. Breaking of rocks forms soil
5. The bursting of firecrackers causes air pollution.
6. Bursting of firecrackers causes air pollution.
Thanks a million.
 
  • Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    I think it's transitive vs intransitive? When the gerund is used intransitively, it is fine without 'the', but when it's used transitively, 'the' is required. Is it something like that? But I've decided to use 'the' always.
    (Sorry, please don't get mad at me!)
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I agree with Beryl that inclusion of 'the' is the safer option. In the case of 1)--4) I regard all of them as correct, although I prefer the version with 'the'. The versions without 'the' are better if you also omit 'of'. I believe this is generally true of transitive verbs.

    1. The cutting of trees causes many environmental problems.:tick:
    2. Cutting trees causes many environmental problems.:tick:

    'Burst' is intransitive. I like 5) better than 6), but i regard 6) as acceptable.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    I admit that I glossed of the 'bursting of firecrackers' example, and I defer to neal41, a speaker of AE.

    As to the 'breaking of rocks', I'd thought of that as something being done to the rocks, but I'm not a geologist - perhaps it's a process.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    How can you burst firecrackers? You light a firecracker and it bursts when it explodes. Being transitive or intransitive makes no difference to what we say. Bursting firecrackers make a noise/the bursting of firecrackers makes a noise. When we say "bursting fircrackers", firecrackers is the subject and bursting is an adjective modifying firecrackers When we say "the bursting of firecrackers", bursting is the subject, is a noun, and requires the definite article - of firecrackers is a genitive form adjectival phrase modifying firecrackers. We could also write "the firecrackers' bursting ...", although this time the article applies to the modifier, so "firecrackers' bursting", is equivalent in meaning to "the bursting of firecrackers".

    I consider all three of your sentences without the definite article to be incorrect.
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    Thanks Andy, I also believed the same but I did find this transitive use of burst in the dictionary. I'll recheck it and post later when(/if) I have found it. Balloons I'm sure we can burst.
     

    Cathy_J

    New Member
    Russian
    In my humble opinion (not a native English speaker) - if we leave out the word "of" in sentences 2, 4, 6, then we get sentences with the gerund (gerunds don't have articles and they don't occur in the possessive case).
    Sentences 1, 3, 5 are correct but it is not the gerund, it is called the verbal noun.
    The Gerund, Verbal Noun and Present Participle often get confused with one another.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Andy, you're right that, traditionally, the term gerund has been used in English to cover both:
    - the verb-like ING-form which is modified by adverbs and takes direct objects: Carelessly cutting trees causes ...
    - the noun-like ING-form which is modified by adjectives and takes "the" and "of": The careless cutting of trees causes ...

    In the past, (if obliged to use the term gerund) I used to call the red type a verby gerund and the blue type a noun-y gerund. But I gather from previous threads that some modern grammarians - if they use the term at all - prefer to restrict "gerund" to the {red} verby type and call the {blue} noun-y type "verbal nouns". Cathy_J is, I imagine, using that teminology;).

    As regards the original question, I, too, prefer a straight distinction between Cutting trees causes problems and The cutting of trees causes problems. Englishmp, you will come across the hybrid Cutting of trees causes problems; but I would generally avoid it myself.
     
    Last edited:
    The gerund form "cutting trees" is a shortening of "the cutting of trees". The short form is the normal one. The long form is relatively rare.
    This has nothing to do with formal or less formal. It is more a stylistic reason when the long form is used. As it is longer it has more weight
    and draws the attention of the reader.
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Hello,

    I have given too much thought to this use of gerunds with both the and of that it has plagued me for years. I stumbled upon a good source on verbal nouns that briefly explains it all. Here is the link. In my view, there are limited number of cases, or rather verbs, where we could employ this construction.

    Below are some self-made examples.

    1. "He woke up to the loud screeching of the car in the street."
    2. "The [sharp] clinking of glasses marked their mutual consent."
    3. "His teacher's indifference to his problems at school led to the bullying of him."
    4. "Their singing was excellent."
    5. "The low flying of a plane over the town sent people running scared in all directions."
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi all,
    Should I use 'the' before a gerund subject followed by 'of' in bookish, formal English? I think I should. Please make it grammatically clear to me.Which ones of these are correct?
    1. The cutting of trees causes many environmental problems.
    2. Cutting of trees causes many environmental problems.
    3. The breaking of rocks forms soil.
    4. Breaking of rocks forms soil
    5. The bursting of firecrackers causes air pollution.
    6. Bursting of firecrackers causes air pollution.
    Thanks a million.
    These -ing words are not gerunds or participles. (Gerund/participle is Latin grammar, so we'll just forget about those labels.) More to the point:

    -ing words are verbs (more precisely, non-finite verbs) if they take a direct object (i.e. a noun or something that behaves like a noun). In all your examples, the -ing words are followed by an "of-prepositional phrase," and since of-prepositional phrases do not function as "direct object," these -ing words can't be verbs.

    What happens in your examples is that the -ing words have been nominalized (i.e., "turned into a noun"). Nominalization happens when we add the definite article plus the of-prepositional phrase to the -ing word:

    The cutting of trees
    The
    breaking of rocks
    The
    bursting of firecrackers


    We can see that the -ing words are nominalized because they appear in slots reserved for nouns; in other words, we can put "nouns" where the -ing words go (between "the" and the of-prepositional phrase):

    The days of my youth
    The
    man of steel
    The
    girl of my dreams


    In your examples, since you are not using "true nouns" but -ing verbs that have been turned into "nouns," it's a good idea to use full nominalization (definite article + of-prepositional phrases). Now, is it wrong/incorrect to omit the definite article (i.e., Cutting of trees causes many environmental problems; Breaking of rocks forms soil; Bursting of firecrackers causes air pollution)? Well, as long as you have the of-prepositional phrase, these -ing words can't be taken for verbs, and so they are still "nouns" (or more precisely, functional nouns). Nonetheless, these functional nouns look sort of half-naked without the definite article (at least to my eyes), so I'd go ahead and add "the" in each case.
     
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