Verbs + nouns, gerunds and infinitives.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Lucretia, Oct 27, 2006.

  1. Lucretia Senior Member

    <<Mod Note.
    These posts have been moved from the thread about afford to verb vs afford verbing.
    They focus on grammatical issues that are diverting attention from the topic of the afford thread.

    Many foreigners, I think. I also used to make this mistake because we can't help making a false analogy:
    They can't afford this car (noun)= They can't afford buying this car (gerund).
    Some people call gerunds nouns.
  2. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think we're confusing our grammatical terminology here.

    When a verbal form is used as a noun, it is a gerund. An infinitive that follows a verb is not a verb; it is an infinitive used as a noun.

    I can afford skiing.

    In this sentence, "skiing" is a gerund (noun).

    I can afford to buy a hamburger.

    In this sentence, "to buy" is an infinitive used as a noun.

    The object of "afford" is a noun in both cases. Why the gerund is allowed in one and not the other is strictly idiomatic. We can try to come up with a logical difference, but a grammatical differentiation based on which version is more or less "verbal" will not hold much water.
  3. Lucretia Senior Member

    That's just what I meant, elroy. You've given it a better wording.
  4. deslenguada

    deslenguada Senior Member

    But if some nouns are given by adding "-ing" to them it can be pretty conffusing for some people when to know whether it is a noun or a verb, isn't it?
  5. Lucretia Senior Member

    It's not difficult to distinguish, Des. A noun will have an article. Besides, a noun will never have a direct object while gerunds often do.
    Sorry, can't think of an example which would feature the same word - ... a meeting, a building don't seem to collocate with afford.
  6. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Again, all gerunds are nouns.

    Lucretia, I guess you meant "gerunds" versus "other nouns."

    Your explanation is not quite precise.

    A non-gerund noun will have a determiner, not necessarily an article, but a gerund can have one as well. Furthermore, you could indeed say "I can't afford a building in this area."

    You are right, however, in saying that gerunds can take objects and modifiers that verbs can take. That's what makes them special.
  7. Lucretia Senior Member

    We were taught they are not, although they overlap in many functions. According to your statement, if gerunds=nouns, then nouns=gerunds, which is funny. Perhaps grammars are not the same everywhere. In our grammar books gerunds are verbals - and this denotes their closer resemblance and relation to verbs than nouns.
  8. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    No! All gerunds are nouns, but not all nouns are gerunds.
    Absolutely - and there are three types of verbals: gerunds, participles, and infinitives. Gerunds are always nouns; participles are always adjectives; and infinitives can be nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

    Many use the term "gerund" casually to refer to the -ing form, but this is faulty because the same form can also be a participle.
  9. Lucretia Senior Member

    I don't think so.
    Entering the room she saw everything in a mess.
    Having graduated from Harvard Philip hoped to find a good job in Europe.
    This shows you and I have learned absolutely different grammars, so there's no point going on the debate.
  10. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I am not very clear about the distinction that is being made here. Isn't the -ing form defined as a form that functions as a noun or adjective but can take objects etc like a verb (as participles do in many languages)?

    Maybe there are some examples where you do think about whether an -ing form is more of a noun or more of a verb. For example, in 'I can't afford living with you', 'with you' could belong to 'can't or could belong to 'living': it could mean that when I am with you I can't afford life (a noun); or it could mean that I can't afford to live with you (more verb-like).

    I am sure that all languages can be used ambiguously; and poets (I am thinking of Shakespeare) characteristically use ambiguity to say several different things at the same time.
  11. okey-dokey Senior Member

    English / UK, London
    to take the debate further ...

    as this issue of what is and what is not a verbal noun, gerund, or participle comes up time and again, I thought I would take a look at a grammar book. This is in brief what Quirk et al* have to say on the matter:

    Firstly, they give the traditional use of the expression gerund (see below) but then go on to argue that the expression is no longer useful (ie. to distinguish between participles and gerunds) and that it is best dropped.

    Secondly, they introduce an additional expression - deverbal noun. These are nouns derived from a verb by adding a suffix. For example, engagement is derived from engage, inhabitant from inhabit, and building from build.
    << Excess quoted text removed to comply with WordReference rules >>
    *Quirk et al in A comprehensive Grammar of the English Language published by Longman, 1985.
  12. Lucretia Senior Member

    Well, Teddy, this piece shows the fundamental difference between the grammar I (and most teachers in post-Soviet area) preach and the one I see from Brits and Americans. I'd say they function like nouns or adjectives.
    According to our grammar nouns can function as subjects, objects, attributes, appositions and predicatives, which are all components of the structure of a sentence.
    I think you are bored to death.
    strikes me as wrong.
    Let's take, for instance, meeting.
    1. The meeting will take place in Vienna.
    A noun functioning as a subject. You can make it plural:
    The meetings will take place in Vienna.
    2. Meeting Richard was a welcome surprise.
    A gerund functioning as a subject.
    You can't add the before it, because it's not a noun.
    You can't make it plural either, for the same reason.
    3. We are meeting on Friday.
    A participle functioning as part of the compound verbal predicate.

    That's why I am surprised when gerunds are called nouns.
  13. Lucretia Senior Member

    Sorry, I didn't see your post, Okey. Will read it now.
  14. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    These are both adjectives. "Entering the room" descibes "she" and "Having graduated from Harvard" describes "Philip." I don't know what the problem is.
    Whether or not something can take a "the" is not what determines whether it's a noun! Besides, gerunds can take the article "the."

    The moderating in this forum is weak.

    In "Meeting Richard was a welcome surprise," the subject of the sentence is the gerund phrase, "meeting Richard." The gerund phrase is here taking the place of a noun.

    The bottom line is that gerunds are nouns, and gerund phrases are noun phrases. I can understand dividing nouns into "gerunds" and "other nouns" but excluding "gerunds" from the "noun" category is not grammatically sound.
  15. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "Nominal clauses"? I always learned that a clause had to contain a subject and a verb, whereas a phrase did not. I definitely consider gerund phrases to be noun phrases.

    It is precisely the combination of noun characteristics and verbal characteristics that makes a gerund unique.

    Perhaps this might help clarify thigns:

    -Within its own phrase, a gerund functions like a verb. It can receive adverbial modifiers and objects.
    -As a part of the whole sentence, a gerund or gerund phrase functions as a noun. It can receive adjectival modifiers.
  16. okey-dokey Senior Member

    English / UK, London
  17. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think there are different definitions of "clause." To me, a participle, infinitive, or gerund phrase will always be a phrase - but I recognize the fact that grammatical terminology is used in different ways by different people (indeed, that seems to be what's causing confusion in this thread, since I'm pretty sure you, Lucretia, and I all understand how all the different things we're talking about actually work :)).
  18. Lucretia Senior Member

    Another divide - if you insist on calling paticiples "adjectives" and gerunds "nouns", then the above two -ing forms are "adverbs". Just compare:
    The girl entering the room is my sister.
    Yes, it's a non-finite participial clause which modifies the girl and functions like an adjective (not as :))
    Whereas in my former example it's an adverbial modifier of time - When did she see it? - Entering the room.
    The same goes for Philip.
  19. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Do you have any sources that back up your extremely unconventional grammatical analyses? :confused:

    "Entering the room" is a participial phrase functioning as ("as" and "like" are both correct, with a difference in meaning, but that's a topic for another thread) an adjective in both sentences. I have had extensive exposure to English grammar, having learned it intensively at school and given private lessons in it for years, and I have never heard some of the claims that you are making. I am quite bewildered that anyone would consider "entering the room" an adverbial modifier. :eek:
  20. Lucretia Senior Member

    No, deslenguada,
    The problem is some verbs only require infinitives, some only take gerunds, some go with both - and it's not easy to remember.
    Elroy, I'm not ready to give you any sources right off, I'll try later on. Basically we differ in the following: in my understanding morphology (parts of speech) and syntax (parts of the sentence - they deal with functions of words) are absolutely different things, while you mix them up. Not only you.
    At the age of 22 you've been teaching
    ? Well done.

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