A Conversation for Selected Pretentious Literary Terminology


Post 1

Cap'n BK

I once, in a previous life, wrote a specification for a highly technical procurement. I submitted it to my elders and betters for scrutiny. They returned it with the one comment, that I had used a "gerund". They "normally deprecated the use of gerunds". I still don't really understand what a gerund is, despite looking it up. Could somebody explain, please?


Post 2

Bels - an incurable optimist. A1050986

If you don't mind my saying so, there is a song called 'The Leaving of Liverpool'.

In that sentence, both 'saying' and 'Leaving' are gerunds.

A gerund in English is a word ending in '-ing' that is taken from a verb and used as a noun.

I see no reason why its use should be 'normally deprecated', and I am just wondering [not a gerund but a verb] under what circumstances your superiors would allow it.

Shakespeare uses it - for example, in 'Macbeth', Malcolm says 'Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it'.



Post 3

Cap'n BK

Sorry for taking so long to reply, I had a traditional Scottish New Year. Thanks for the explanation, but it's the "-ing" that confuses. Not every verb with "ing" is a gerund, or is it? For example, in your first sentence "if you don't mind my saying.....", I can see saying is a gerund. If the sentence read "if you don't mind me saying....", would saying then still be a verb?


Post 4

Bels - an incurable optimist. A1050986

>I am just wondering [not a gerund but a verb]

The -ing form only becomes a gerund when it is used as a noun, not as a verb.

'If you don't mind my saying so' - the verb in that phrase is 'mind'. [That could be either the English meaning of 'to mind' or the Scottish meaning.smiley - winkeye] 'Saying' is a noun there: it is the object of the verb 'mind'. 'My saying' is the thing you don't mind.

'I was saying, only the other day...' - there 'saying' is the verb, not a noun and therefore not a gerund.

'If you don't mind me saying so' is just grammatically incorrect, though of course it is in common usage. 'Saying' is still a gerund there.

'The Leaving of Liverpool' - there is no verb there, any more than there is in 'The Streets of Liverpool'. 'Leaving' is therefore a gerund, a noun derived from a verb.

See if you can replace an -ing word with another noun, and if you can it's probably a gerund. So 'If you don't mind my saying so' means 'If you don't mind my statement to that effect'. 'Statement' is a noun that can replace 'saying', so 'saying' is a gerund. And since you wouldn't say 'me statement' you shouldn't say 'me saying' - but of course people do.



Post 5

Cap'n BK

Your last paragraph has cleared it up nicely. Thanks very much. At last I understand this gerunding(?)!

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