Veo a tres hombres tomando café (gerund/adjective)

Karlaina

Senior Member
English, United States
There are a couple of other threads with similar questions, but they contain some misinformation I'd like to weed out. I've been looking around but haven't really found a straight answer. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide related to this specific question about the function of the gerund in certain sentences in Spanish.
  • We can all agree that the gerund in Spanish cannot be used as a noun. (Nadando es divertido.:cross: --> Nadar es...:tick: / La natación es...:tick:)
    • Nadar / La natación = sujeto de «es»
  • We can all agree that the gerund in Spanish can be used adverbially. (Entró riéndose a carcajadas.:tick:)
    • riéndose = adverbio de modo que describe cómo «entró»
  • We can all agree that the gerund in Spanish can be used as part of a progressive verbal construction. (Tres hombres están tomando café.:tick:)

:warning: Here's where things get fuzzy for me...

  • The gerund in Spanish cannot be used as an adjective, right? (Me gusta más el pájaro cantando.:cross: ..> ...el pájaro cantador.:tick: / ...el pájaro que canta.:tick:)
    • cantador = adjetivo que describe «pájaro»
    • que canta = cláusula relativa en función de adjetivo que describe «pájaro»
But how would you describe the following use? It looks adjectival to me:
  • Veo a tres hombres tomando café.
    • tomando = ¿adjetivo que describe «hombres»? :confused:
    • This sentence very clearly has a subject (yo), a verb (vi), a direct object (hombres), and then a phrase that.... what? Seems to describe the direct object.
  • I can easily justify this use: Veo a tres hombres que están tomando café.
    • que están tomando = cláusula relativa en función de adjetivo que describe «hombres» (el gerundio es parte de la construcción verbal del presente progresivo del indicativo)
  • But when «qué están» is taken out, I'm unsure of the role «tomando» now plays in the sentence.

I hope my question is clear... Thank you for any help clarifying the role of the gerund (like «tomando» in the last example) when it seems to do the job of an adjectival relative clause.

 
  • S.V.

    Senior Member
    Español, México
    Here (b) they mention that "exception," which applies to verbs and nouns related to the senses (aside verbs like haber, estar). That is what "predicativo" means, the gerund needs to leech off an action (sometimes implied in nouns like foto, imagen, etc.) It's not normally noun + gerund, as with adjectives.

    "Restrictivo" means you would be able to use "el pájaro que canta" to single out a bird in a group. The gerund does not work in such cases. You should be able to replace it with as, instead of that + verb: I see three men as they take coffee. You are thinking of an action occurring at the same time as seeing.

    In the previous pages, they mention haber, estar: Hay un perro comiendo, Ahí está Juan jugando. Sometimes it extends to tener, dejar, llevar, when they also identify existence: Tengo / dejé a mi amiga esperando. I left my friend waiting.
     
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    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    It's more complicated yet, Karlaina. Leaning on one of your examples, I thought of this ambiguity:

    La niña vio a un hombre tomando café.

    Who's drinking coffee? The girl or the man?

    But how would you describe the following use? It looks adjectival to me:
    • Veo a tres hombres tomando café.
      • tomando = ¿adjetivo que describe «hombres»? :confused:
    I don't think it's adjectival, but rather adverbial. To me, the function is the same as in
    Veo a tres hombres en el bar.

    in fact, it's the same in English. I copy from Wikipedia.

    Roles of "gerund" clauses in a sentence
    Non finite -ing clauses may have the following roles in a sentence:

    Role Example
    A Subject Eating cakes is pleasant.
    . . . . . . . . . . . .

    F Adverbial He walks the streets eating cakes.

    In this case, the gerund can only refer to the subject. But it would still be adverbial in
    She saw him in the street eating cakes.
     
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    Dosamuno

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    It's an elliptical (economical) adjectival clause.

    In both English and Spanish, you can omit the subject and the verb “to be”
    (“estar”) in adjectival (relative) clauses:

    Vi al hombre (quien o que estaba) durmiendo en el coche.

    I saw the man (who was) sleeping in the car.
     

    Dosamuno

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    It's an elliptical (economical) adjectival clause.

    In both English and Spanish, you can omit the subject and the verb “to be”
    (“estar”) in adjectival (relative) clauses:

    Vi al hombre (quien o que estaba) durmiendo en el coche.

    I saw the man (who was) sleeping in the car.
    Technically, once the subject and auxiliary are removed, the adjectival clause is converted into an adjectival phrase.

    Dosamuno, do you disagree with the explanation in the wikipedia?

    Hi Anahiseri:

    The deep structure of your example and Karlaina’s example is different:

    1. He walks the streets (while he is) eating cakes.

    2. I saw a man (who was) eating cakes.

    In your example, “eating cakes” describes how he walks down the street.

    In Karlaina’s example and sentence 2 above, the relative clause, or the adjectival phrase that we construct by removing the relative pronoun and the verb “to be”, describe the man who is seen.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    Thanks, Dosamuno. And let's see if I get this right. In Karlaina's Spanish example
    Veo a tres hombres tomando café.
    Would you say "tomando café" is adjectival if it's the men who are drinking,
    and adverbial if it's the speaker (because in this case it modifies "Veo a tres hombres")?
     

    Lnewqban

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Cuba
    It's an elliptical (economical) adjectival clause.

    In both English and Spanish, you can omit the subject and the verb “to be”
    (“estar”) in adjectival (relative) clauses:

    Vi al hombre (quien o que estaba) durmiendo en el coche.

    I saw the man (who was) sleeping in the car.
    :tick::tick::tick:

    ........
    • I can easily justify this use: Veo a tres hombres que están tomando café.
      • que están tomando = cláusula relativa en función de adjetivo que describe «hombres» (el gerundio es parte de la construcción verbal del presente progresivo del indicativo)
    • But when «qué están» is taken out, I'm unsure of the role «tomando» now plays in the sentence.

    I hope my question is clear...
    "Veo a tres hombres" is a full sentence; any additional description is optional.
    "Veo a tres hombres fuertes (que están) trabajando duro en la casa de mi vecino."
    How do they look?, what are they doing?, where are them?, and so on.

    "Oigo a los niños jugar / jugando en el parque."
    "Ella llegó corriendo a la casa."
    "Siento a una hormiga caminando sobre mi brazo."

    For additional descriptions about the subject of the original example, while avoiding any potential confusion, I would suggest the following form:
    "Mientras tomaba café, ví a tres hombres acercarse".
    "Ví a tres hombres acercarse / que se acercaban, cuando estaba sentado tomándo un café."
     

    Dosamuno

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Here (b) they mention that "exception," which applies to verbs and nouns related to the senses (aside verbs like haber, estar). That is what "predicativo" means, the gerund needs to leech off an action (sometimes implied in nouns like foto, imagen, etc.) It's not normally noun + gerund, as with adjectives.

    "Restrictivo" means you would be able to use "el pájaro que canta" to single out a bird in a group. The gerund does not work in such cases. You should be able to replace it with as, instead of that + verb: I see three men as they take coffee. You are thinking of an action occurring at the same time as seeing.

    In the previous pages, they mention haber, estar: Hay un perro comiendo, Ahí está Juan jugando. Sometimes it extends to tener, dejar, llevar, when they also identify existence: Tengo / dejé a mi amiga esperando. I left my friend waiting.

    S.V. is right and I am wrong.
    My responses were based on my knowledge of English grammar.
    Spanish grammar and terminology is different.
    The meaning of and uses of gerunds and participles are different.
    I realized this after reviewing my Spanish grammar books.

    Mia culpa.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Once you've got the above clear in mind, you are ready for the exceptions:
    "hirviendo" and "ardiendo"—invariable in form—can be used as adjectives, following (but not preceding) a noun.
    See the Butt & Benjamin grammar, Sec. 4.4: "Tráeme agua hirviendo"; "Moisés ante la zarza ardiendo".
     

    Dosamuno

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Once you've got the above clear in mind, you are ready for the exceptions:
    "hirviendo" and "ardiendo"—invariable in form—can be used as adjectives, following (but not preceding) a noun.
    See the Butt & Benjamin grammar, Sec. 4.4: "Tráeme agua hirviendo"; "Moisés ante la zarza ardiendo".
    Yes: their book, A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish has detailed information about the use of gerunds,
    especially pp. 317 through 324. One thing I did get right is that when gerunds follow certain verbs--hervir, arder, mostrar, coger, pillar, pintar, dibujar, etc. and the verbs of perception, "they may be used to qualify the object of the main verb"--i.e., as an adjective. So in answer to Kartaina's original question, "tomando"--despite the general rule of gerunds not functioning as adjectives in Spanish, does play the role of an adjective in the sentence, "Veo a tres hombres tomando café."
     

    Dosamuno

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Í give up. I don't really care about Spanish grammar terminology.
    Ha, ha.

    Before I retired, I was an English teacher, so grammar and terminology are important to me.
    However, it's been about 40 years since I last studied Spanish grammar and I need to review the differences
    between the two languages.

    The words gerund and participle have different meanings in Spanish and in English.
    A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish by Butt and Benjamin, mentioned by Cenzontle, is an excellent book
    for help in understanding everything about Spanish grammar. Manuel de traducción by Lopez Guix and Wilkinson
    offers insight into important differences between the two languages.

    anahiseri, my responses to you about English sentences and grammar have been accurate. However, the same rules do not apply to Spanish.
     

    Amapolas

    Senior Member
    Castellano rioplatense
    S.V. is right and I am wrong.
    I don't think you're that wrong. You did mention deep structure and, if you go deep, those gerundios predicativos are what is left if you ellide the first part of an adjectival clause:
    Vi al hombre [que estaba] durmiendo en el coche.
    Alcánzame agua [que esté] hirviendo.
    El ruido del agua [que está] saliendo por el caño.


    As regards the restrictivo mentioned above, we have options such as 'el pájaro cantante' or 'la bella durmiente'. Those adjectives ending in -ante are related to gerunds in their origin.
     

    Dosamuno

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I don't think you're that wrong. You did mention deep structure and, if you go deep, those gerundios predicativos are what is left if you ellide the first part of an adjectival clause:
    Vi al hombre [que estaba] durmiendo en el coche.
    Alcánzame agua [que esté] hirviendo.
    El ruido del agua [que está] saliendo por el caño.


    As regards the restrictivo mentioned above, we have options such as 'el pájaro cantante' or 'la bella durmiente'. Those adjectives ending in -ante are related to gerunds in their origin.
    Thank you Amapolas.

    Your clarification of the relationship of the present participle and the gerund in Spanish was helpful—it was one of the sources of my confusion.

    In English, the “ing” form of verbs serves as both gerund and present participle.

    In Spanish, the “ando” and “endo” forms of verbs are gerunds, not participles as I had thought before doing my “homework” last night.

    Yes, “gerundios predicativos are what is left if you elide the first part of an adjectival clause”. My error was to call them “participial phrases”, which would be correct in English but not in Spanish grammar.

    Returning to Karlaina’s question about the role of “tomando cafe” in the sentence “Veo a tres hombres tomando cafe.”: Would you agree that “tomando cafe” is adjectival?
     

    Karlaina

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    Wow. You are all incredible. This is dizzying o_O - but super helpful. :p I think I'll get those two texts that were mentioned, and I will continue following this discussion to leech all the fascinating knowledge being distilled for me.

    I really want to understand this - it has bothered me for years! :rolleyes:

    Mil gracias.
     

    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    Dosamuno, I can see you' re well versed in Spanish grammar. I have been an English teacher too, so I had to study English grammar in depth and I'm familiar with it. But then, I was educated in German schools, so what little I know of Spanish grammatical terminology I picked up haphazardly, and on top of it, about 20 years ago or so it seems there was a sea change regarding this terminology. Each time I get into a discussion like this I end up realizing that I'm not up to it, so I'm a bit fed up. Thanks for your patience. :confused:
     

    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    No, just one more final (really!) comment. To me, dormido is a "participio pasado" and durmiente a "participio presente". but now it turns out the first is just participio tout-court and durmiente has been stripped of the participle category and is just an adjective. Well. Stupid. Maybe there was somebody writing books about this and earning a lot of money.

    by-bye
     
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