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The sentence:
Journalists can act as 'observers' reporting only what they see as the objective facts.


About the 'reporting' above, is it adverbial modifying 'act'? Or, is it a participle modifying the noun in front--'observers'--as, say, 'walking' in 'a man walking in the park'?

I think it's adverbial, but a student of mine insists it's a participle. He says he's learned '-ing' in 'noun+ -ing' construction is a participle. And that's the only reason why he thinks that way.

If you were I, how would you talk him into believing that it is not?

Or, am I wrong in the first place??
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Comments  
I believe that the secret lies in the (omitted?) comma between 'observers' and 'reporting'. If there were a comma, the nonfinite clause would be your adverbial, modifying 'act'; without the comma, it is a nonfinite clause acting as a modifier of 'observers'.

There is also the option of considering the clause as a modifier of the whole sentence.

Have I confused and frustrated you?
Hi, MM. You said:
I believe that the secret lies in the (omitted?) comma between 'observers' and 'reporting'.


But, at the same time, you said:
If there were a comma, the nonfinite clause would be your adverbial, modifying 'act'; without the comma, it is a nonfinite clause acting as a modifier of 'observers'.


So, which interpretation do you support anyway??
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Actually, Taka, I like my third interpretation best-- I think it is a sentence adverbial; that is, 'reporting only what they see as the objective facts' is best considered as modifying the whole idea of 'journalists can act as observers'. It is obvious from your quandary-- and my own-- that the idea doesn't solely modify either 'observers' nor 'act', but rather describes their activities. So why argue the point, when the third option is both available and reasonable?
OK, let me ask this way.

What makes you think 'reporting' does NOT modify 'observers', which basically seems to be on the same lines of thinking as mine?
If it must modify one of them, I think it must be 'observers', since there is no comma-- therefore it is restrictive of 'observers'.

If it had the comma, it would modify 'act'.

But I think I am repeating myself. Can I go to bed now? It is after midnight. We can discuss this further tomorrow.
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OK, I'll save it till tomorrow.

Oyasumi-nasai. Emotion: wink
Journalists can act as 'observers' reporting only what they see as the objective facts.


I agree. It's a participle modifying 'observers'.

By the way, 'as' seems to be the culprit here.

If we assume 'as' heads the verb's object, then 'reporting' sits correctly as a participle (1.), and if we assume 'as' is part of the verb itself, then the participle reads like an adverb (2.), answering the question, "How?" That reading is evident in (3.) with the addition of an adverb of means ('by').

Participle
1. Journalists can act as 'observers' reporting only what they see.

Adverbial phrase
?2. As 'observers' reporting only what they see , journalists can act.

3. Journalists can act as 'observers' by reporting what they see.
Thanks, folks.

Well, according to your analysis, now it seems it's grammatically safer to say that it'a participle modifying 'observers'.

I don't know why but personally I still see an 'invisible' comma in between 'observers' amd 'reporting', though.
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