A grammar book lists the following sentence as an example for using "smiling" as a participle:

"A smiling critic is dangerous."

My question: What verbs are acceptable to use as participles? I'd like to use "frowning" as a participle -- as in "frowning parents" -- but am hesitant to do so. The dictionary doesn't include "frown" as anything but a verb, noun, and adverb. In the context I want, "frowning" would be none of these. How can I include participles and be confident that I haven't offended any grammar rules?

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Hi Bec,
There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. In general, present participles are the forms of verbs ending in -ing (-ing forms), BUT not all -ing forms are present participles; some of them are gerunds. The question now is how do we know whether it's a participle or a gerund? It all depends on the usage: how the -ing form is used in a sentence.

Back to your question, what verbs are acceptable, in fact all verbs are 'acceptable' meaning you can form a present participle (more precisely -ing form) out of ANY verb. The problem is in the usage. As I said, whether an -ing form is a present participle or a gerund is determined by how you use it in a sentence. I know the following explanation is hair splitting but participles and gerunds are indeed very confusing, iow, it's got loads of hair that needs splitting.Emotion: wink

When -ing forms are used as verbs, adjectives or adverbs, they are called present participles. When used as nouns, they are called gerunds. When you say a walking stick, is the word walking used as a participle or gerund?

a walking stick: is it a stick for walking or a stick that is walking (the stick does the walking?)

It is definitely the first one as the stick is used for walking (gerund). In order to use present participles correctly, you need to know the meaning of your noun phrase. And I think it won't be a bad idea to check with a collocations dictionary to know whether the phrase is a common one or not.

Ohhhhh, is it any help??! reading it again, I don't think I've answered your questions. Emotion: sad
Yes, you solved parts of my promblem -- and thanks!

I'd like to modify my original question: What verbs can I use as participles to act as adjectives? If an adjective form of a word is not listed in the dictionary (as in the case with "frowning/smiling"), is there a way I can check to see if the verb I've selected to became a modifier/adjective is acceptable?

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Your question is unclear. First, it is important to note that participles are a class of words that is contained within verbs; a participle is one of the many inflections of a verb. You can use the present participle of the verb "frown" ("to frown") in the sentence "I am frowning." You can use the past participle in the sentence "I have frowned."

Your question, "What verbs can I use as participles to act as adjectives?" is unnecessarily complicating the issue. You need not use participles as adjectives, for if they work then they are adjectives to begin with. If the man can smile, he can be a smiling man. If he can frown, he can be a frowning man. If he can hang, he can be a hanging man. Use your intuition.
That is very true, Ebeckley. Participles are inflected forms of verbs therefore you can form a participle out of any verb you like; and they are normally not listed in the dictionary. Those present participles (more precisely -ing forms) that are listed usually have meaning a bit different from the meaning of the main verbs.
Yes, in most cases I do use my intuition. It just seemed to me that if a verb can be used as a participle that modifies (i.e., an adjective) the dictionary would include the participle form of the verb as an adjective along with naming it a verb. I have seen other examples in the dictionary where the "adjective form" of a word is included in the definition. I am a person who trusts his intuition but likes to verify it when necessary.
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(Added to previous post)

What I mean to say is if I looked up "frown in the dictionary, I would expect to see something like:

frowning (adj.)

near the end of the def.
I'm sorry to inform you, but you are wrong. In this case, walking stick, walking is used as a participle, not a gerund. In this sentence - Walking is his favorite activity, walking is a gerund. In "He used his walking stick to help him get around", walking is a participle - it acts as an adjective.
First, a word on the whole issue of the -ing form of verbs.
Quirk and Greenbaum postulate a 15-element gradience in the verb (present participle -- eg he was painting) -- in-between forms (including what was traditionally labelled gerund -- eg he likes painting) -- deverbal noun (eg he dropped the painting on my foot) continuum.

With walking in the open compound noun walking stick, if it is felt necessary to ascribe the word to a separate word-class (I'd be tempted to leave walking stick as a two-word lexeme, a noun), as the compound term is best analysed as a stick used in connection with walking, we are here pressing a gerund into an adjectival role. We often do this with nouns, eg foot, football; football, football manager. On the other hand, in the compound noun working class, working is obviously participial, whereas in steering wheel, I would argue for indeterminancy - a wheel essential when one is steering (participle) the car, or a wheel essential when it comes to the important matter of steering (gerund).

The attractive fudge is to label -ing forms used adjectivally as participial adjectives (alongside the similar adjectivals -- such as hardened criminals, spent force, broken heart -- using so-called -ed forms). However, grammarians can't even agree on whether participial adjectives are really adjectives!

Yourdictionary says yes, certainly:


What Is a Participial Adjective?

The participial adjectives are a major subclass of adjectives.

Whereas Merriam-Webster, at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/participial%20adjective , says they are verb-forms:

participial adjective: a participle (as rolling in a rolling stone or written in the written word) having an adjectival function

You are going to have differences of opinion as long as there are different schools of grammar.
And many dictionaries are lagging way behind current analysis.
I dread any statement beginning, 'The Dictionary says' -- WHICH Dictionary?
While much in Quirk and Greenbaum's Grammar is laudable (the mention above is very useful), many of their analyses are widely contested nowadays.
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