A question for master grammarians:

How would you identify the word "training" in the following sentence?

He spent years training himself to write.

Help if you can!
1 2
Your question is tough to answer.

[1] "He spent years training himself to write". Formerly this was not accepted as formal English. In those days most of pedagogic people though and even now some of them think that it should be: [2] "He spent years in training himself to write". So, historically speaking, "training himself to write" is a gerundive phrase. But now we could take it as an adverbial phrase using a present participle "training". That is, #1 could be interpreted as [3] "He spent years (while) training himself to write"

I would say that the original structure was "to spend Emotion: time on/in doing something". Here, the ING form is a gerund, e.g.

1. He spent years [on] training himself to write.

and the underlined phrase acts as a complement.

However, without the preposition, the gerund seems to take on something of the character of a participle, as if it were really:

2. He spent years, training himself to write.

This seems illusory, though, as you don't say simply "he spent years": the phrase needs its complement.

(But I may be barking up entirely the wrong tree.)

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I had a similar discussion with a teacher on line regarding this type of sentence structure sometime ago.

If I said “He has saved for year hoping to start his own business”. Would you say this is a similar sentence structure as “He spent years training himself to write”?

If you agree, then I believe “hope” and “training” are not used as gerunds but as present participle to describe the action.

If I ask the following questions, can you comment ?

The board of directors met for hours trying desperately to work out a budget, but still no decision. Present participle ?

Despite hours of trying, there is no decision/ Gerund ?
Hello Goodman

It looks a little different to me:

1. He spent years training...

2. He saved for years hoping...

In #2, we can put a comma after "saved", which suggests a participle that modifies the subject of the first clause; but in #1, we can't, which suggests an ing-form that modifies the action.

In your other examples, I'd say that you were right: participle and gerund.


Thanks for your reply.

That’s what makes this forum different than the others I had visited.

I am a former ESL student and I’d like to think I have passed that level;

but I am still trying to polish my English while sharing it

with others. Having said that, It’s fair to say that one piece of editorial may

have varying opinions and critiques from different reader because

each of of us has a different writing style; not wrong but just a different approach.

I am the kind lthat earns from copying and observing from others rather than

memorizing the technical rule of the book. By the way, I am a

born Chinese

Glad to meet you all here !

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Very glad to meet you too, Goodman! I look forward to more of your posts.

As you say, we have many shades of opinion here, so with luck, another member will pass by and propose another view. (I'm by no means sure that my "analysis" is correct; it's a tricky question.)

See you later,


Please look at the three sentences below, which I picked up online.
1. She spent the time in working at home
2. She spent the time working at home.
3. The time working at home is gradually increasing.
Sentence #1 was traditionally deemed as a grammatical form, but people nowadays prefer the sentence #2. Sentence #3 seems to have been created by some people who analyzed the cluster of "the time working at home" in #2 as a noun phrase. This would be a good example showing a progress in a language is brought about by people who are not well acquainted with the grammar of their mother tongue. I believe phrases like "a position teaching English" also were created in a similar way.

Yes, #3 does dangle. This seems to be the missing link:

1. The time spent working at home...


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