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Hi,

Please tell me whether the parts mentioned are a gerund or verbal noun.

1. Doll had this writing underneath her recent posts and I think it is called her signature.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but lighting of a fire." W.B. Yeats

Are 'filling' and 'lighting' gerunds or verbal nouns? How could you tell the difference?

2. He heard a clamour and a barking of dogs under ...

Is 'barking' a gerund or verbal noun? How could you tell the difference?

3. Only salt can preserve things from spoiling.

This one seems to be clear and the word 'spoiling' seems to be a gerund with 'from' being a preposition. OK? But if the sentence is changed to (into??) this, then can it make the situation be different?

The spoiling of food can be prevented by using salt.

Is 'spoiling' here a gerund? I don't think so -- it looks to be a verbal noun in that it has the article 'the' in front of it. Gerunds cannot have the article 'the' or 'a' in front them?
Contributing Member1,969
Hi,

I haven't heard the expression 'a verbal noun'. How would you define it?

Yes, gerunds can have an article.

Clive
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CliveHi,

I haven't heard the expression 'a verbal noun'. How would you define it?

Yes, gerunds can have an article.

Clive
When I was studying Turkish, we used the term 'verbal noun' to identify a verb form made into a noun by adding suffixes to denote person, possession, time, ability, etc. These one-word items are used to replace what we would use a relative clause to express in English. Turkish is an agglutinative language of the Ural-Altaic branch, and Korean is considered by some to be Altaic. Perhaps there is a relatonship here.
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We call it "fiilimsiler" canım arkadaşım Philip. Believer, give us the definiton of verbal noun so that we can help you. I have never heard it before. If you consider that I am 19, this is normal though.Emotion: big smile But, I think you will be glad to see this post:http://www.englishforums.com/English/VerbalNounVsGerund/zrbgr/Post.htm
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On the definition of the verbal noun:

In a neighbor thread called "verbal noun vs. gerund" are stated some features that draw a difference between verbal nouns and gerunds:

http://www.englishforums.com/English/VerbalNounVsGerund/zrbgr/Post.htm

1. It differs from the participle in being always used as a noun: It never belongs to or limits a noun.

2. It differs from the verbal noun in having the property of governing a noun (which the verbal noun has not) and of expressing aciton (the verbal noun merely names an action, Sec. II).

But for the awkward formulation, they make sense to me.

That being said, "a barking of a dog" is a verbal noun...
Contributing Member1,848
All of your examples are gerunds if we stick to modern terminology.

Forget about the terminology verbal noun. It's total garbage!

It has many different definitions, depending on the author and when the grammar book was written.
___________

The modern definition is given at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbal_noun

A verbal noun is a noun formed directly as an inflexion of a verb or a verb stem, sharing at least in part its constructions. This term is applied especially to gerunds, and sometimes also to [bare] infinitives and supines [i.e., full infinitives].
That is, there are three types of verbal noun: gerunds, bare infinitives, and full infinitives.
So anything that is a gerund is also a verbal noun, because a gerund is one of the types of verbal nouns.
__________
The modern definition is echoed at
http://www.ielanguages.com/english.html

Gerunds: [Like participles,] Gerunds are also formed by adding -ing to the verb, but they function as a verbal noun [as opposed to the participle, which is a verbal adjective] and are normally preceded by articles or demonstratives. The singing was excellent.
_________
A completely different definition is found here:

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O29-VERBALNOUN.html

VERBAL NOUN. A category of noncountable abstract noun derived from a verb, in English by adding the suffix -ing. Like the verb from which it derives, it refers to an action or state: writing in The writing has taken too long; hearing in His hearing is defective. Verbal nouns are frequently combined with the preposition of and a noun phrase that corresponds to the subject or object in a clause: The grumbling of his neighbours met with no response (compare His neighbours grumbled); His acting of Hamlet won our admiration (compare He acted Hamlet). Verbal nouns contrast with deverbal nouns, that is, other kinds of nouns derived from verbs, such as attempt, destruction, and including nouns ending in -ing that do not have verbal force: building in The building was empty. They also contrast with the gerund, which also ends in -ing, but is syntactically a verb.

___________

The next definition is more than 100 years old, and I've seen it quoted on this site. Note that it is classified (see the URL) under "Classic Literature". It is useful only as a historic document -- not as a guide to modern English and modern syntactic analysis.

http:// classiclit
.about.com/library/bl-etexts/wmbaskervill/bl-wmbaskervill-grammar-parts-nouns.htm

An English Grammar
1896
by W. M. Baskervill & J. W. Sewell
273. It [the gerund] differs from the participle in being always used as a noun: it never belongs to or limits a noun.
It differs from the verbal noun in having the property of governing a noun (which the verbal noun has not) and of expressing action (the verbal noun merely names an action, Sec. II).

[Sec. II. is actually Sec. 11, where nouns are discussed. The discussion of verbal nouns is within a category called Abstract Nouns, so in Section 11 verbal nouns are called by their more specific name: Verbal Abstract Nouns.]

II. The VERBAL ABSTRACT NOUNS Originate in verbs, as their name implies. They may be—
(1) Of the same form as the simple verb. The verb, by altering its function, is used as a noun; as in the expressions, "a long run" "a bold move," "a brisk walk "
[These are called deverbal nouns in modern terminology -- or 'zero-related nominals' or just 'nouns'.]

(2) Derived from verbs by changing the ending or adding a suffix: motion from move, speech from speak, theft from thieve, action from act, service from serve.
[These,too, are called deverbal nouns nowadays -- or just 'nouns'.]

(3) Derived from verbs by adding -ing to the simple verb. It must be remembered that these words are free from any verbal function They cannot govern a word, and they cannot express action, but are merely names of actions. They are only the husks of verbs, and are to be rigidly distinguished from gerunds (Secs. 272, 273). [These are nouns that end in -ing. They have acquired fixed meanings as nouns, referring to something more concrete than the action of the underlying verb.]

To avoid difficulty, study carefully these examples:
The best thoughts and sayings of the Greeks; the moon caused fearful forebodings; in the beginning of his life; he spread his blessings over the land; the great Puritan awakening; our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; a wedding or a festival; the rude drawings of the book; masterpieces of the Socratic reasoning; the teachings of the High Spirit; those opinions and feelings; there is time for such reasonings; the well-being of her subjects; her longing for their favor; feelings which their original meaning will by no means justify; the main bearings of this matter.
____________

It is debatable whether anything whatsoever is to be gained in the study of modern English by resurrecting these older definitions.

CJ
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Thanks for the clarification, I didn't know that source was so old.

So, assuming the modern terminology, the term gerund comprehends a much wider class of (?)words. And the "gerunds" in the examples below are very different but all gerunds, while the old grammarians would have called 1.1 and 2.1 verbal nouns.

1.1 «The singing was excellent»
1.2 «I like singing "Goin' home"»

2.1 «The barking of the dog»
2.2 «This dog preferrs barking at drunk men»

What I want to say, since the modern grammar hasunified these categories, it still has to distiguish *.1 from *.2 somehow, because the do have grammatical differences as indicated by Baskervill and Sewell. I am sure it does explain the difference, though don't know how.

BTW, modern English grammars (those written by Russians) are in accord with this 1896 book. Interesting, do Believer's textbook and his teacher follow the same approach to the gerund?

«It is debatable whether anything whatsoever is to be gained in the study of modern English by resurrecting these older definitions.»

I think it is a matter of taste what terminology to use as long as the use of the gerund hasn't change ever since.

Back to Believer's example:
«He heard a barking of dogs» — is the indefinite article ok there? If it is, would the meaning change if it was replaced with the definite article?
A grammar is only a view of language. No matter what terminology, if it helps avoid mistakes and explain phenomena, then the grammar is good. For Russians traditional grammar is good, because its rules are easier to understand from Russian POV... I remember an American trying to explain the meaning of prepositions to a Chinese... It was something...

I think that trying to simplify understanding modern grammar makes it more ambiguous, hence even more complex.
Full Member243
... the old grammarians would have called 1.1 and 2.1 verbal nouns. No. See below. See Sect. 273 of B&S. All examples with the ---ing of --- are called gerunds there.

1.1 «The singing was excellent» I'm not sure what B&S would call this, but neither verbal noun nor gerund is out of the question.
1.2 «I like singing "Goin' home"»

2.1 «The barking of the dog» B&S would call this a gerund.
2.2 «This dog preferrs barking at drunk men»
...
I would characterize the difference by saying that the *.2 usage involves catenative uses of the gerund. These are arbitrary idiomatic usages. Sometimes a catenative verb takes the gerund; sometimes, the infinitive; sometimes either is possible. like ...ing / like to ---; prefer ...ing / prefer to ---; avoid ...ing

Back to Believer's example:
«He heard a barking of dogs» — is the indefinite article ok there? Unusual, but OK. If it is, would the meaning change if it was replaced with the definite article? No. He heard the barking of dogs is the more usual way to say the same thing, in my opinion. And even more usual: He heard dogs barking.
_____

I think B&S are simply pointing out that some -ing nouns are not gerunds in spite of the -ing ending. They use the term verbal noun for the non-gerunds. There is a fuzzy line between the two, but in the historical period in which they wrote this grammar it was probably regarded as unscholarly, if not shameful, to admit this. Hence, they say that the two categories are very strictly separate. I find it hard to believe that such a strict division actually exists in the real world.

I recommend re-reading their examples of verbal nouns. I think examples like saying are the clearest. That's a clever saying is one thing (B&S's verbal noun; modern 'ing-related nominal') and My saying it doesn't make it so is another (B&S's gerund; modern 'gerund'). In the first use of saying, there is nothing at all verb-like about saying except that it is derived from the verb say; not so in the second use, where the action of saying, hence something verb-like, is involved.

Out of curiosity, note also the 'zero-related nominal' say: He would not sit down until he had had his say in the matter.

CJ
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