Would you folks please be so kind as to tell me whether "reading" is a gerund or a present participle in this sentence? I contend that it is the former because it is the object of a preposition ("after"), but someone whose opinion I highly respect opines that it is the latter.

After reading the book, I decided to go to bed.
Cheers,
Ekdog
1 2
Would you folks please be so kind as to tell me whether "reading" is a gerund or a present participle ... opinion I highly respect opines that it is the latter. After reading the book, I decided to go to bed.

There's no real difference.
You can make an argument for either;
knock yourself out.
You could call it a gerund because it's clearly a verb form and not a true noun (it's got a direct object) but it can be construed as the head of a noun clause because it's the object of a preposition 'after'.

You could call it a participle because it's clearly a verb form but it can be construed as the head of an adverbial clause because it's preceded by an adverbial subordinating conjunction 'after'.
English words (like, e.g, 'after') don't really come with the same assortment of labels as Latin words did. The terms 'gerund' and 'participle' aren't really distinctive in English, though they were in Latin. We've got a lot of terminology left over from Latin still lying around in English, and every once in a while somebody trips over one, and hurts themself with it.
-John Lawler www.umich.edu/~jlawler Univ of Michigan Linguistics Dept "Scholars who have made and taught from English grammars were previously and systematically initiated in the Greek and Latin tongues, so that they have, without deigning to notice the difference, taken the rules of the latter and applied them indiscriminately and dogmatically to the former." William Hazlitt 'English Grammar' (1829)
Would you folks please be so kind as to tell me whether "reading" is a gerund or a present participle ... opinion I highly respect opines that it is the latter. After reading the book, I decided to go to bed.

As used in the sentence you ask about, "reading" is unquestionably a gerund, a verbal noun. Not only does it serve as the object of a preposition, but it takes a direct object itself, and only a form of a verb can take a direct object. Verbal noun = gerund. You are correct.
The problem is that some people call the -ing form of a verb "the present participle" without regard to its use in a given grammatical context. This is sufficiently common that I can't call it "wrong," but it can be very misleading. Which is why I prefer to call the form itself "the -ing form." If you want to compromise with this person whose opinion you highly respect, you might say that this is the present participle form being used syntactically as a gerund. There is no doubt that it *is* a gerund.

Bob Lieblich
The Gerund Kid
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Would you folks please be so kind as to tell ... After reading the book, I decided to go to bed.

As used in the sentence you ask about, "reading" is unquestionably a gerund, a verbal noun.

Maybe, maybe not. It depends on if "after" is introducing a noun phrase or a clause fragment.
After reading the book while she was also riding the horse, she balanced chopsticks on her nose.
After reading books, my next-favorite hobby is fishing.

\\P. Schultz
The problem is that some people call the -ing form of a verb "the present participle" without regard to its ... is the present participle form being used syntactically as a gerund. There is no doubt that it *is* a gerund.

But the term 'present participle' refers to form and not function. You aver that this is not the case, yet you supply no alternative word for the form. The fact that you have to resort to calling it the '-ing form' is most revealing, for it suggests that there is no other word for it.

Just as we use the terms 'preterite' and 'past participle' for the FORMS 'sang' and 'sung' respectively, so too the term 'present participle' is used for the form 'singing'. These terms do not necessarily imply a grammatical function, although they often do, e.g., the preterite is most often used for the simple past tense.
What you suggest as a compromise is in fact the way things are, although I would rather have said the the gerund (almost) invariably takes the form of the past participle.
Sebastian.
What you suggest as a compromise is in fact the way things are, although I would rather have said the the gerund (almost) invariably takes the form of the past participle.

Almost?
-Aaron J. Dinkin
Dr. Whom
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What you suggest as a compromise is in fact the ... gerund (almost) invariably takes the form of the past participle.

Almost?

I only put that in to cover myself. Personally, I can't think of an exception.
Sebastian.
As used in the sentence you ask about, "reading" is unquestionably a gerund, a verbal noun.

Maybe, maybe not. It depends on if "after" is introducing a noun phrase or a clause fragment.

I said "As used in the sentence you ask about" for a reason, Mr. Smith.(1) In that sentence it's a gerund. You can add words and change the grammar, but that's always true.
After reading the book while she was also riding the horse, she balanced chopsticks on her nose.

Still a gerund, followed by a dependent clause containing a progressive verb form.
After reading books, my next-favorite hobby is fishing.

Definitely a gerund.
Or, as John Lawler might say, "If that's how you want it to work, that's how it works for you." Works for me.
(1) Have you followed the fate of your namesake(s) in the last of the Matrix movies?

Bob Lieblich
Two proper nouns
The problem is that some people call the -ing form ... gerund. There is no doubt that it *is* a gerund.

But the term 'present participle' refers to form and not function.

To you. Not everyone agrees with you. Not everyone agrees with me, for that matter. But I am hardly flying solo in this respect; I took the term "-ing form" from Contemporary American Usage by Bergen Evans and Cornelia Evans, published in 1957, and I have seen it in other contexts as well.
You aver that this is not the case, yet you supply no alternative word for the form. The fact that you have to resort to calling it the '-ing form' is most revealing, for it suggests that there is no other word for it.

I call it by the only neutral term I know. Any other creates mischief. I don't deny you your usage. I just find it less clear than mine. Both lead to the same result.
Just as we use the terms 'preterite' and 'past participle' for the FORMS 'sang' and 'sung' respectively, so too the term 'present participle' is used for the form 'singing'.

By you. And by many others. Not by me.
These terms do not necessarily imply a grammatical function, although they often do, e.g., the preterite is most often used for the simple past tense.

And, in your usage, the present participle is often used as a verbal noun, or as part of a progressive (continuous) form. That's a lot of coverage for one verb form.
What you suggest as a compromise is in fact the way things are,

It is always a good idea to be cautious when proclaiming that one's usage represents "the way things are." Were you around for the "another think/thing coming" debate?
I don't have any problem with what you say or what you do except as you imply it's the only way to do it. Terminology is slippery, and I try to use the least value-laden terms I can find.
although I would rather have said the the gerund (almost) invariably takes the form of the past participle.

I can live with that, even if it's not the formulation I would choose. I'd even replace "almost" with "always."
There's really not much of an argument here, is there?

Bob Lieblich
Or am I just mellowing out?
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