28 June 2011

Why “-ing” is not always wrong

In discussions about choosing answers on Fixing Sentences, the word “gerund” is often used as a blanket term covering just about anything that ends in -ing. It’s not quite that simple, however. Yes, gerunds are formed by tacking -ing onto verb (e.g. go —> going, talk —> talking), but participles are also formed exactly the same way.

While gerunds are usually bad, participles…well, not so much. They actually have very little effect on whether an answer is wrong or right.

This means that if you’re indiscriminately eliminating answer choices just because they contain words ending in “-ing,” you might get yourself into some trouble.

Here’s the distinction:

Gerund: A gerund is a verb that acts as a noun. It usually follows a possessive adjective such as her, your, or their (e.g. I was annoyed by his whistling).

Participle: A participle is a verb that acts as an adjective. It precedes a noun, exactly the way an adjective does (e.g. I was annoyed by the whistling boy).
Consider this sentence:

Correct: Although it lacks traditional circus elements such as animals and clowns, Cirque du Soleil is regarded as an exciting spectacle.

The sentence is fine because “exciting” functions as an adjective modifying “spectacle,” not as a gerund.
In addition, participles are often used to fix comma splices:

Incorrect: Cirque de Soleil is regarded as an exciting spectacle, it features beautiful costumes and thrilling acts.

Correct: Cirque de Soleil is regarded as an exciting spectacle, featuring beautiful costumes and thrilling acts.
On the other hand, answers that contain gerunds are usually wrong either because they are wordy and awkward or because they are fragments.

 

Wordy and awkward: In spite of its lacking traditional circus elements such as animals and clowns, Cirque du Soleil is regarded as an exciting spectacle.

Correct: Although it lacks traditional circus elements such as animals and clowns, Cirque du Soleil is regarded as an exciting spectacle.


Fragment: 
Cirque de Soleil being regarded as an exciting spectacle.

Correct: Cirque de Soleil is regarded as an exciting spectacle

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