Gerunds as Prepositions

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Often I see gerunds used in a prepositional manner.  For instance: 'I saw him hitting John' or 'the documents concerning our divorce were presented earlier today', in which cases 'hitting' and 'concerning' act as prepositions, unless I have misanalysed them.  I believe that such gerunds/participles as 'concerning', 'regarding', and 'during' are now also classified as prepositions because of widespread usage.

 

I can understand the logic behind the phrase 'I saw him fighting with John', where 'fighting' is a participle that decribes 'him', and 'with' links 'John' into the sentence; the alternative sentence 'I saw him hitting John', however, seems nonsensical, as 'John', with the assumption that 'hitting' is in fact a participle (not a gerund), is in no way linked to the rest of the sentence.  It seems more logical on the whole to recast the sentence as 'I watched as he fought John' or something similar.

 

Ultimately, my question is this: is it grammatically correct to use a gerund as a preposition?  To me, the use has always seemed lazy and illogical, but it seems to be becoming increasingly popular.

3 answers


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Geoffrey, it is a fascinating question.  These -ing forms in your 2 example sentences, however, are not gerunds.  They are participles, or participle phrases.  Please think a little more about the hitting/fighting with sentences; in fact, the only difference between them is that hit is a transitive verb (which obviates the need for any preposition, and John is the object of the verb) and fight is (usually) an intransitive verb (so requires the preposition with, and John is the object of the preposition).  Both of those sentences are grammatically correct, reducing 2 clauses into one complex clause (for example,  I saw him.  He was hitting John. becomes I saw him hitting John.)  The sentence about the divorce papers is also correct.  (By the way, during is actually a preposition.)  Gerunds cannot ever function as prepositions.  I hope this helps.

link edited May 30 '13 at 22:24 Shawn Mooney Expert

I think so. I usually need to let linguistic concepts gestate for a while before I understand them fully. Do the verbs not lose their status as either transitive or intransitive once they become gerunds/participles? Especially considering that they are no longer verbs, but nouns/adjectives?

In any case, I appreciate the answer. This has been frustrating me for a while.

About 'during', though, it began as the present participle of a now obsolete verb 'to dure', which we now have as 'endure'. (Source: http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=during&allowed;_in_frame=0) This is mainly why I was curious about it.

GeoffreyMay 31 '13 at 00:02

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I agree - neither is a gerund. In example 1, 'hitting John' is a participial adjective phrase because it describes 'John'. The second example is simply a preposition that ends with -ing - like during. It will only be a gerund if it can simultaneously take on the function of a verb AND a noun.

link comment answered May 31 '13 at 01:43 Ahmad Barnard Expert
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You also ask whether verbs lose transitive status once they become gerunds. No. In fact, this is one of the ways in which you can demonstrate that a gerund is both VERB and NOUN at the same time. Consider this - Studying makes you smart. Here, 'studying' is a gerund subject of 'makes'. I can modify the meaning of 'studying' by either using 'regular studying' or 'studying regularly'. In other words, I can use both an adjective and an adverb to modify a gerund. This means that a gerund simultaneously functions as verb and noun. As for the transitive part - this is another way to demonstrate that a gerund, like a main verb, MAY be transitive. You could say: Studying English makes you smart. Now 'English' is the direct object of the gerund 'studying', and hence it is transitive.

link comment answered May 31 '13 at 01:53 Ahmad Barnard Expert

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