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Hi,

I was trying to reinforce my knowledge of adjectives with the help of The Tongue Untied, a guide to grammar, punctuation and style, that is online, and on its section on Adjectives, I found this sentence. I am not too confident on spotting an adjective when a gerund is used? When an adjective is before a noun and describe the noun, it seems very clear but when a gerund, although it is shown to be decribing a noun too, it doesn't come through clearly in my mind. Can you help me to remove some haze that seems to be hindering my understanding?

(from The Tongue Untied web source under its section on Adjectives)

Playing tough defense, both teams push the ball up the floor and score a lot of points.

There, it seems to note that 'Playing' describes the 'teams', its subject. If it were modified like 'youth teams' and say to me the word 'youth' is an adjective describing the 'teams', I would be nodding my head knowing what is going on but when you say a gerund like the one above is describing the word 'teams', I have to say my nodding comes reluctantly. Can you help me?
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Gerunds are -ing words used as nouns -- not adjectives.

Fishing is a pleasant activity.

Present Participles are -ing words used as adjectives.

A rolling stone gathers no moss.
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Both gerunds and present participles are -ing forms of verbs. Like verbs, they may take objects.

Playing chess is a pleasant activity.

The girl eating ice cream is my sister.


(When the present participle takes an object it is placed after the noun it modifies, as in the second example above, where it is not *The eating ice cream girl ...)
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Present participles (with or without objects) can be used adverbially. Usually they are found at the beginning of a sentence. Normally they represent adverbs of manner or time, but some grammarians analyze them as adjectival because they are associated with the subject. The subject of the main clause can be considered the subject of the participial clause.

Whistling, the boy entered the shop. (While/As the boy was whistling, the boy entered the shop. - Adverb of time.) [If this is a case of an adjective, then it is a non-restrictive adjective. It's a matter of a boy, whistling, entering the shop, not of a whistling boy entering the shop.]

Looking through the microscope, we saw the cells. (By looking through it, we saw them. - Adverb of manner or adverb of means. We were looking through the microscope, and that's how we saw the cells.)
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Sometimes the function of the participial construction is ambiguous in terms of the type of adverb.

Playing tough defense, both teams push the ball up the floor and score a lot of points.

This could be By playing tough defense or While playing tough defense, so it's ambiguous as to whether it's an adverbial of manner or time. But in any case, the subject of the participial is the subject of the sentence. Both teams are playing tough defense, and both teams push the ball up the floor and score a lot of points.

CJ
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Thank you, CalifJim.

Very informative and helpful.

You wrote:

Present participles (with or without objects) can be used adverbially. Usually they are found at the beginning of a sentence. Normally they represent adverbs of manner or time, but some grammarians analyze them as adjectival because they are associated with the subject. The subject of the main clause can be considered the subject of the participial clause.

Is it your position that you would categorize the part "Playing tough defense" as more of an adverb than an adjective? I think you do.

At the same online help site, The Tongue Untied, under its Participles section, it had this sentence.

Learning to solve problems in groups, the students began to understand how to fit within the social structure.

And I think it noted Learning is an adjective -- a participle -- describing students. Do you agree? I always appreciate your help.

If it is an adjective, how did you come to that conclusion?
Is it your position that you would categorize the part "Playing tough defense" as more of an adverb than an adjective? I think it is you do.
Yes, but I may be in a minority.

Learning to solve problems in groups, the students began to understand how to fit within the social structure. And I think it noted Learning is an adjective -- a participle -- describing students. Do you agree?
No, but again, I am likely to be in a minority. It seems that traditional grammarians believe that such a construction should be called adjectival because it is so closely associated with the subject of the main clause.

CJ