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Hi,

I think native speakers go about making something like a gerund or content in parentheses with the thoughts in mind that a tactic of makig it a type or instance is possible.

eg,
discussion
a discussion -- an instance of discussion, thus countable
shampoo
a dandruff shampoo -- a possible type of shampoo, thus countable; not just a certain additional adjective but special use can make it countable.

Then, a far back ago, I saw the gerund 'mixing' and I think a Guru said putting the indefinite article 'a' is possible as it could mean "an instance of" it.

a mixing of flour and sugar -- an instance of mixing of sugar and flour

Then, I saw a post by Mr. M where I think he went on hard to make a gerund a type, rather than an instance, in a case and it involved something similar to this.

an unusally hard laying aside of pressures and troubles is necessary for a person to gain composure.

My question is why did he have to go a long way to make "laying" a type where making it "an instance" would be more efficient.

I feel many writers do resort to make something countable by making that thing "an instance" of it, rather than a type of it.

An asking of this question has taken a lot of mintues. -- Did I make it countable correctly by using an "an instance of it" countable frame?
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I am not sure if the following answers your question but I'll say it anyway. Some grammarians don't distinguish between verbal nouns (= complete nouns formed from verbs with the ing ending) and gerunds (= words that are neither verbs nor nouns but resemble both to some extent). Some apply the term "gerund" to both of them. Perhaps your confusion arises from that?
A verbal noun really is a noun in that it can assume all the characteristics any countable noun has. This means that it can have an article, an adjectival attribute (or more than just one) and it can occur in the plural:
The correct speaking of English is easy.
His old writings don't interest me.

Perhaps some of the "gerunds" that bother you or arouse your interest belong to this category? Mixing in your post certainly does.
Some verbal nouns have become part and parcel of the language and are included in dictionaries, like "beginning" for example. In some cases you have a choice: a happy end/ending.

Gerunds can't be preceded by an article or an adjectival attribute because they are not full-fledged nouns. They bear some resemblance to verbs: they can take an object:
Speaking English correctly is easy.
CB
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Thank you. Would you say the phrase "an unusally hard laying aside of something" is a case of a verbal noun with an indefnite article -- making an instance of differentiation?

I did a Google Book search for the what you seem to be callling "verbal nouns" -- watching, mixing, playing, shouting and seemed to have come up with these tidbits:

a watching of the clould and pillar
a watching of the sky
a mixing of the two stratified layers
a mixing of the systems
a mixing of molecules
a playing of flutes
a playing of a symphony
a shouting of Song
a shouting of patrotic sentiments

My argument is that native speakers seem use two ways to make these kinds of verbal nouns countable: 1) by making them types and 2) by making them instances of that very verbal noun. I think people who wrote the above tidbits seemed to have employed what I call "an instance of it" tactic, where, in their perception of things, they wrote these thinking them as an instance of each of them; and it seems that they didn't have to make have certain sententical context that will make differentiation possible -- as the following:

(borrowed from Google Search tidbits)

a painfullly hard-on-your-eyes watching of the cloud and pillar
an unusally complicated mixing of the systems
an acute, fervent shouting of patrotic sentiments that went on that day ...
AnonymousWould you say the phrase "an unusally hard laying aside of something" is a case of a verbal noun with an indefnite article -- making an instance of differentiation?
As I said, various terms are used. In my classification a gerund can't take an article (a, an, the) or an adjectival attribute. Some others probably see things differently. I never thought of these words as "instances of differentiation" simply because when I learned the grammar of English, I never encountered that term. If you are familiar with it and like it, by all means, use it.Emotion: smile
CB
Thank you, again.

Are these types of verbal nouns (as you called it) or instances of verbal nouns? What validates their placement of an indefinite article?

I did a Google Book search for the what you seem to be callling "verbal nouns" -- watching, mixing, playing, shouting and seemed to have come up with these tidbits:

a watching of the clould and pillar
a watching of the sky
a mixing of the two stratified layers
a mixing of the systems
a mixing of molecules
a playing of flutes
a playing of a symphony
a shouting of Song
a shouting of patrotic sentiments

What do all indefiinte articles indicate? An instance of mixing, watching, playing and shouting? Or a type of watching, mixing, playing, and shouting?
To make into types, I think, you can do it two ways: 1) by setting them up attributively -- eg, adding adjectives to make one different from the other or 2) by
setting them up into types contextually -- like saying "Orange juice is a liquid."

Another way to validate the use of an indefinte article seems to be to make instances of them, like how we do with the word 'discussion' -- a discussion to mean an instance of it, whereas discussion without the article to refer to it generally.
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