Participle I and the gerund compared 

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Participle I and the gerund compared


§ 139. Participle I and the gerund are alike in their verbal characteristics, both morphological (the categories of voice and perfect) and syntactical (verbal combinability).

The difference between the two lies in their non-verbal characteristics, that is in their syntactical functions and non-verbal combinability. Participle I, unless substantivized, cannot be used as subject or object, whereas such use is typical of the noun and therefore of the gerund. When used as adverbial modifier or attribute, participle I like an adjective or an adverb is never preceded by a preposition. On the other hand when the gerund is used as attribute or adverbial modifier it is preceded by a preposition like a noun in these functions.

The difference between the two is also to be found in the nominal tendencies of the gerund and the adjectival tendencies of participle I. This is most evident in their function of a predicative and an attribute.

As predicative participle I gives qualitative characteristics to the subject, thus tending towards an adjective, as in:


The sound of the thunder was deafening.

The gerund does not qualify the subject, it rather identifies the sub­ject by revealing its meaning, as in:


His favourite occupation is collecting stamps (or playing football or just football).


When a gerund or a participle is used as an attribute, the difference between them does not lie only in the absence, or presence of the preposition, but also in their relationship to the modified noun. (For details see § 132 on premodifying attributes). Participle I denotes an action that the person or thing performs or experiences:


What is the name of the man talking with your sister?


Thus the modified noun denotes the doer of the action expressed by the participle.

The gerund usually reveals the meaning of the modified noun, which never denotes the performer of the action.


What the use of crying so?

That was my last chance of seeing him.

There was no hope of saving her.


When used as an adverbial modifier, the gerund is more varied in its application than the participle because it is used with different prepositions.

The participle and the gerund are interchangeable when used as adverbials of time characterizing the verb through simultaneous or prior events:


Discussing the plan In discussing the plan   we heard a lot of helpfull suggestions.
Entering the room On entering the room   he closed the door.
After discussing the plan Having discussed the plan   we started carring it out.


Only the gerund is possible when the starting or the final point of the action is meant, as in:


He has never been at his native town since leaving it in 1964.

You must get your parents’ permission before leaving for the mountains.

Yet there are a number of cases, especially among predicative constructions, where the -ing form may be treated either as a participle or a gerund, the difference between them being neutralized, as in:


I don’t count on him scaring easily.

Then he was aware of Toscato shaking the door of the box.

I remember them staying with us once.

Fancy him saying so!


Participle II

§ 140. Participle II is a non-finite form of the verb with verbal and adjectival features. Participle II stands apart from the other non-finites in that it does not possess their morphological categories. Nevertheless, being a verb form, it possesses the potential verbal meaning of voice, aspect and correlation, which depend upon the meaning of the verb it is formed from and which are realized in the context.

The main meanings of participle II are those of a state as a result of some action or an action itself. One of the most essential characteristics of participle II is that when it is used as part of the sentence, participle II of a transitive verb is passive in meaning, participle II of an intransitive verb is active.

Thus the participles invited, told, taken are semantically passive and correspond to the Russian passive participles приглашенный, рассказан­ный, взятый. The participles arrived, gone, risen are semantically active and correspond to the Russian active participles прибывший, ушедший, поднявшийся (взошедший).


§ 141. The adjectival nature of participle II manifests itself in its function in the sentence, which is usually that of either attribute or predicative. It may combine with adverbs of degree typical of adjectives, such as very, too, slightly, so, much, more, as in:


I am very pleased with you.

The children were too excited to notice the newcomer.

No man has ever had a more devoted sister than I.


Instead of the negation not, which we find with the other non-finites, participle II is often negated with the prefix un-, as in unfinished, unanswered.

Participle II may turn into adjectives with qualitative meaning synonymous with other adjectives, as in celebrated - famous, tired - weary.

Similar to adjectives and participle I, participle II may form adverbs with the help of the suffix -ly: fixedly, unhurriedly, admittedly.

The adjectival nature of participle II is traced in adjectivized participles with a form different from the verbal participle II. These forms occur as attributes in such phrases as on bended knees, a drunken man, a lighted match (candle, torch), molten lava (lead, steel), roast meat, a rotten apple, a shaven head, a well-shaven man, sodden clothes, sunken eyes, a swollen river. Some forms are used predicatively: to be well-stricken in years, to be panic-stricken, poverty-stricken (but thunder-struck, theatre-struck).


§ 142. The verbal character of participle II is manifested in its combinability. Thus participle II of transitive verbs easily combines with a by-object denoting the doer of the action as in Jane entered the room followed by her brother.

Participles II of phrasal verbs retain their composite structure: a boy brought up in a teacher’s family.

Participles II of prepositional transitive verbs are followed by the appropriate prepositions: a book often asked for, the article referred to, a man much spoken of.

Ditransitive verbs keep their second object as in: That was the main question asked her at the wedding.

Participle II may be accompanied by an adverbial modifier expressed by adverbs or phrases combining with verbs: a house built two years before, man hidden in the bush, a play well acted, a story long forgotten.

One of the main verbal features of participle II is revealed in its functioning as part of the compound verb forms of the passive voice and the perfect.


Voice peculiarities of participle II


§ 143. Participle II of transitive verbs, when it is not part of a perfect form, is always passive in meaning. Depending on the verb and the context it may correspond to any passive participle in Russian: built -построенный, строившийся, строящийся; begun - начатый, начинае­мый, начинающийся; translated - переводящийся, переводившийся, переводимый, переведенный.

Having a passive meaning participle II of transitive verbs is opposed to participle I active: asking - asked, loving - loved, seeing - seen, writing -written, teaching - taught, watching - watched, etc.

The doer of the action or state denoted by participle II is to be found in the subject or object of the sentence, in the noun or pronoun modified by participle II, in the first (nominal) element of a predicative construction.

The passive meaning of participle II may be of three types:


1) denoting an action directed towards the person or non-person expressed by the subject or object. This is peculiar to durative (non-terminative) transitive verbs, such as to accompany, to follow, to watch, to carry, to teach, to listen (to), to laugh (at), to look (at, for, on), to speak (of, to), to love, to hate, as in:


Spanish is one of the foreign languages taught at our Institute.

I won’t have my friend laughed at.


2) denoting a state, which is the result of an action. This is typical of terminative transitive verbs, such as to bring, to catch, to do, to find, to make, to put, to solve, to build, to realise, to open, to close, etc.


The problem is solved. The door is shut.


Occasionally, in a certain context, participle II of the above-mentioned verbs may denote action, as in: Brightman’s place was an old English farm-house, built two years before.


3) denoting a pure state. This is the case with verbs denoting psycological states and emotions, such as to amuse, to annoy, to offend, to surprise, to please, to excite.


I felt annoyed when he refused to help me.

I’m very (much) pleased with what he has done.


Participle II of intransitive verbs is always active in meaning. The use of these participles is restricted. Only participles II of verbs denoting motion or change of state can be used as attributes. These are participles II of the verbs to arrive, to fall, to go, to rise, to depart, to decease, to retire, to fade, to wither, to vanish, to decay and some others. Participles II of these verbs correspond to the Russian active participle of the perfective aspect: arrived - прибывший, vanished - исчезнувший, faded - увядший, decayed - сгнивший, as in arrived guests, the risen moon, the vanisned civilisation, the fallen leaves, the retired president.

Among these participles we find some which can be used either transitively or intransitively, such as hidden, increased, diminished, returned. They correspond to the Russian perfective active participles with the suffix -ся (спрятавшийся, увеличившийся, вернувшийся): the man hidden behind the tree, an increased population, a returned traveller.

The aspectual meaning of participle II and perfect


§ 144. The original aspectual meaning of participle II is perfectivity. It is evident in terminative verbs and verbs of double aspectual meaning.

In transitive terminative verbs the passive meaning of participle II is combined with perfectivity. Thus participle II can be opposed to participle I in their aspectual meanings of perfectivity/imperfectivity: taking - taken, asking - asked, writing - written, telling - told (берущий - взятый, спрашивающий - спрошенный, etc.).

The original meaning may be modified by the context, as can be seen by comparing the following sentences: The story told by the hostess amused everybody (история, рассказанная хозяйкой...). Why don’t we believe stories told by hunters and fishermen? (истории, рассказываемые охотни­ками, т. е. которые рассказывают охотники)

There is a growing tendency in present-day English to use participle I passive as an attribute to emphasize the processual character of the action. Thus we may paraphrase the last sentence, saying, “Why don't we believe stories being told by hunters?”

Participle II of intransitive verbs or verbs used intransitively is always perfective in meaning and can be opposed to non-perfect participle I: rising - risen, decaying - decayed, going - gone, arriving - arrived, retiring -retired, as in: the rising moon - the risen moon, the retiring director— the retired director. The same in the auctioneer’s formula: Going! Going! Gone! (Продается! Продается! Продано!)

The meaning of perfectivity/imperfectivity results in the potential meaning of perfect. The idea of priority and simultaneity is suggested by the aspectual character of the verb and is realized in the given context.

In many cases, however, the ideas of priority and simultaneity become fused, since the action is prior to, and the resulting state is simultaneous with, the action of the finite verb or the moment of speech. Thus in the sentence First of all she went to the bombed building the action of “bombing” is prior to the action of the finite verb “went”, but the resulting state of the action is simultaneous with it.


Syntactical functions of participle II


§ 145. As part of the sentence participle II may stand alone or be the headword of a participial phrase. It may function as an attribute (close or detached), predicative, or as an adverbial modifier.


Participle II as attribute


§ 146. Participle II usually functions either as premodifier when it stands alone or forms a very short participial phrase containing an adverb. The verbal character of the participle in the first case is made clear only by its lexical meaning:


First of all she went to the bombed building.

Our minds should meet in a serious, mutually needed search for common understandings.

It was a neatly written letter.


Sometimes the preposition is kept:


The room even had a faint perfume about it which gave it a lived-in air.

As a postmodifier participle II manifests its verbal character more explicitly, even when it stands alone. It may be accompanied by a preposi­tion, by an agentive by-object, an adverb and prepositional phrases as adverbial modifiers.


Things seen are mightier than things heard.

The dictionary referred to is to be found in our library.

These are cities inhabited by their creators.

Two women dimly seen in the shadow are talking softly.


When participle II or a participial phrase is detached, its position is not fixed. It may occupy the initial position, the mid-position or the final position in the sentence. Detached attributes are separated from the noun by a comma (or commas) in writing and by a pause in speech. They are confined to literary style only.


Greatly excited, the children followed her into the garden.

Johnson, left in charge of both officers, marched about for a little while.

And people hurried by, hidden under their dreadful umbrellas.



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