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I was asked whether the word 'keeping' was a gerund or a participle.
I said that it was a participle and the whole phrase in italics describes 'Crews'.
However, another another person argued that it was an appositive phrase. So this person believes it is a gerund.
What do you think it is? In other words, do you think that the phrase renames the word 'containment' or the phrase describes 'Crews'?
I find nothing in the link you sent which supports your opinion. Furthermore, the article clearly states that a participle should be placed as close as possible to the noun which it modifies.
Beyond that, keeping here would not work as a participle modifying crews because, in fact they were not 'keeping' but rather 'trying to keep', since the second part of the sentence tells us they were not successful.
Punctuation: When a participial phrase begins a sentence, a comma should be placed after the phrase.
If the participle or participial phrase comes in the middle of a sentence, it should be set off with commas only if the information is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Note that if the participial phrase is essential to the meaning of the sentence, no commas should be used:
If a participial phrase comes at the end of a sentence, a comma usually precedes the phrase if it modifies an earlier word in the sentence but not if the phrase directly follows the word it modifies.
See the very last example? The participle phrase modifies Tom which is at the beginning of the sentence.
Here, 'keeping the oil from spreading' doesn't seem to rename it. In fact, it describes what the crew are doing, or more sprecifically, what the crew are failing to do. This is how I see it, anyway.
Although I agree at times the particple phrase can move away from what it modifies, plunking it down in the middle of a sentence like that is not a likely choice, and if that was the writer's intention (to use it to modify "crews") then he made a poor choice in placement, since two native speakers read it as describing containment, not modifying crews.
I have re-read the sentence and now agree that it is an appositive. I think I misread what 'containment' meant in this sentence and couldn't understand how it was an appositive.
Thank you both for putting me straight and helping me realise that I shouldn't try and analyse sentences at 2.00am, haha.
But yes, that site does confirm that a participle phrase can be placed away from the word it modifies, although this is irrelevant now. And yes, it would be a horrible sentence if it was modifying 'Crews.'
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