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Crews worked at containment, keeping the oil from spreading, but their efforts weren't effective.

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'?

Cheers.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
1a. Crews worked at containment, | keeping the oil from spreading.
1b. Crews worked at | containment, keeping the oil from spreading.

At first sight, it looks a little ambiguous; 1b suggests "apposition", and 1a, a participial qualifier of "crews". But:

2. Crews worked all night in very unsatisfactory conditions, keeping the oil from spreading.
3. Crews worked at containment, heroically keeping the oil from spreading.
4. Crews worked at containment, thereby keeping the oil from spreading.

#2 shows that distance is no disqualification (the phrase does not rename "unsatisfactory conditions"); while #3 and #4 would change "keeping" into a participle simply by adding an adverb, which seems odd, if "keeping" is indeed a gerund.

I wonder too whether the second clause qualifies the entire predicate of the first clause, rather than just "containment" or "crews":

5. Crews worked at containment, keeping the oil from spreading.

Cf. the slightly different intonation of a truly appositive clause:

6. Crews worked at containment, the process of enclosing or containing hazardous substances in a structure to prevent the migration of contaminants into the environment.

Things are further complicated by the deverbal nature of "containment".

Sorry to disagree with everyone and muddy the waters...

MrP
Cheers, Eddie-

Yes, I see the example that you gave (I didn't find it on my own before), although as a strict prescriptivist grammarian I would call it a dangling participle.

I'm glad we got this all sorted out.
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MrPedanticI wonder too whether the second clause qualifies the entire predicate of the first clause, rather than just "containment" or "crews":

5. Crews worked at containment, keeping the oil from spreading.
Wonder no more. It's true! It's true! Emotion: big smile

Well, I thought so, anyway. Emotion: sad

CJ
I wonder too whether the second clause qualifies the entire predicate of the first clause, rather than just "containment" or "crews":

Hi, MrP

I think you are right!!!

It is an absolute phrase. An absolute phrase modifies a whole clause rather than a single word.

Here is a definition of an absolute phrase, and I think this phrase meets the requirements.

Let me know what you guys think.

ABSOLUTE PHRASE

Usually (but not always, as we shall see), an absolute phrase (also called a nominative absolute) is a group of words consisting of a noun or pronoun and a participle as well as any related modifiers. Absolute phrases do not directly connect to or modify any specific word in the rest of the sentence; instead, they modify the entire sentence, adding information. They are always treated as parenthetical elements and are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or a pair of commas (sometimes by a dash or pair of dashes). Notice that absolute phrases contain a subject (which is often modified by a participle), but not a true finite verb.
Eddie88a group of words consisting of a noun or pronoun and a participle
It's not an "absolute phrase"; it has no subject noun. Sorry.

The crew keeping the oil from spreading,
containment of the spill was achieved.

"absolute phrase" underlined.

CJ
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Oh true! Sorry, I was a bit hasty! There clearly is no subject.

Got excited. I thought we found the answer.
Eddie88There clearly is no subject. Got excited.
Did you forget that the subject of this thread is "containment"? Contain your excitement! Emotion: wink

CJ
It is a participal phrase because it acts as an adjective. That person who thinks it is a gerund is wrong because gerunds act as nouns. Gerunds can be a subject, or an object of a prepostion.... but never an adjective.

-Good Luck!
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Don't foget that a noun can function as an appositive too. In the sentence discussed, the italicised words are in apposition to 'containment'; that is, it is renaming containment.
Hence, it is a gerund.
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