Gerunds as Prepositions


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.

2 answers


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

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

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.