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Wed Oct 19, 2011 12:28 pm
Searria H. says...



I understand the difference between a participial phrase and a gerund in their simplest forms.
"Johnny, skiing in the mountains, broke his leg." (Participial phrase)
"Skiing is Johnny's favourite activity." (Gerund)

But I just can't grasp why this is a gerund and not a participial phrase: "...virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones."

Help anyone? :D
-Sea-
'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation saves lives.

Reviews? You know you want one. :)

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Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:30 pm
Dynamo says...



Put simply, why does it matter? When I'm writing I don't worry about the mechanics of the grammar I'm using, I just write what sounds right to me. Keep in mind I've been writing recreationally for almost a decade so I've reached the point where propper grammar and spelling has become a second nature, though during all that time I've never once wondered why I need to worry about these kind of things. As it is, you know more about gerunds and participial phrases than I do, but does understanding them completely really matter if you already know how to use them propperly?

If this doesn't help, I'm sorry. I usually have a simpler outlook on these kind of things.
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Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:55 pm
RachaelElg says...



Who on Earth told you that 'sugaring' in this use is a gerund? Whoever it was obviously doesn't know what they're talking about.

A gerund is a verb used as a noun. A nominalization. In English, this usually occurs with the -ing suffix and verb + ing in noun form essentially boils down to "the act of ____".

One of the things that distiguishes a verb from a noun, though, is that (some) verbs take direct objects. Nouns don't have objects. Ever. Nouns do things to objects, but they don't take objects. Not in the grammatical sense (because certainly Bob, a noun, can take a toy, an object, from some kid, but that's beside the point.)

And here in this sentence we see that 'sugaring' is taking the object of 'the sour ones.' What was sugared? The sour ones.

Now, of course, you could have something like "The sugaring of the sour ones" and in that case "sugaring of the sour ones" would be a complex noun phrase. You could shorten that and remove the 'of' and have 'The sugaring the sour ones' in particular contexts. In which case it's an implied 'of' or genitive structure.

But in this example...

"...virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones."

I'm assuming that "virtue going out of him" is the event causing the 'sugaring' of the sour ones. Which is further evidence of 'sugaring' being a present participle and not a gerund, because present participles cannot simultaneously be nouns and verbs, and if virtue going out of him is the subject and therefore a noun/noun phrase, then 'sugaring' can't be a noun by default.

I'd need the complete sentence to be completely sure, but as of this moment, whoever or whatever told you this 'sugaring' is a gerund is incorrect.
If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
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Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:17 pm
Searria H. says...



I love you both!!!!!
Dynamo, I completely agree! Who needs to know? As far as I know, no one has ever been paid for knowing the difference between a gerund and a participial phrase? This was a question on an English test (for Billy Budd, I might add).

Rachael, that was just the piece that I remember, but I found the entire sentence online.
"Not that he preached to them or said or did anything in particular; but a virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones."
Does that change anything? Thanks!
-Sea-
'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation saves lives.

Reviews? You know you want one. :)

*Ribbit*




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Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:29 pm
RachaelElg says...



Still definitely a participle phrase. Just look at how it's derived.

The original two sentences are:

But a virtue went out of him.
This sugared the sour ones.

Slightly modified is:

But a virtue went out of him. (Simple past.)
This is/was sugaring the sour ones. (Progressive aspect, present participle.)

Combined, you get:

A virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones.

With the subject of 'sugaring' being the entire process of virtue going out of him.

Definitely not a gerund. At least not by any definition I've heard.
If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
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Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:07 pm
Searria H. says...



Thank you! My English teachers insisted it was a gerund, but I just don't see it. One of them argued that you could say, "...a virtue went out of him to sugar the sour ones," and an infinitive acts as a noun. But there isn't an infinitive there. It's a participial phrase.

Do you mind if I bring in your explanation to my teacher and discuss it with her?

-Sea-
'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation saves lives.

Reviews? You know you want one. :)

*Ribbit*




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Thu Oct 20, 2011 7:08 am
RachaelElg says...



Not at all!

And if you need proof that it's not an infinitive, just look at this:

a virtue went out of him to sugar the sour ones.
a virtue went out of him in order to sugar the sour ones.

You can't do that with infinitives, replace the infinitive 'to' with 'in order to.'

I hated to leave
I hated in order to leave.

That complete changes the meaning of the sentence, with the I in the first hating leaving and the I in the second hating (in general) so that he's able to leave.

You do of course have the infinitive form of 'sugar' following 'to' because that's what this sort of constructions calls for.

Another take on the issue:

Sugaring the sour the sour ones is an important step.

In that sentence, you have a participle phrase serving as a noun phrase, which in turn is serving as a subject. Still not a gerund.

Sugaring is an important step.

NOW you have a gerund.

You could replace that with an infinitive:

To sugar is an important step.

That of course sounds lofty, but it works. You could not, however, say:

In order to sugar is an important step.

...huh?

Now go forth to defend grammar :D
If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
—James Thurber




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Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:24 pm
Searria H. says...



Yay for the defenders of grammar! :D
Thanks again!
-Sea-
'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation saves lives.

Reviews? You know you want one. :)

*Ribbit*