Ambiguity – Participle vs. Gerund [Outside Magazine online Article]

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When I first read the first sentence below, I assumed that ‘performing’ was a participle, modifying the ‘you’ that is the subject. But that reading of course leaves ‘can’ without a subject, which I assumed initially was a mistake. Upon a second reading, however, it’s not; ‘performing’ is the subject of ‘can’ as a gerund. But this example reinforces the confusion that can arise from the present participle and the gerund sharing that -ing ending.

Dangling Participle & Reflexive Confusion – Thank you, Wired!

UntitledThis is the opening paragraph to a piece on about the departure of Jeremy Clarkson from the BBC car / driving show Top Gear. It caught my eye initially because of the himself; the extraneous reflexive is a common error among the wannabe litterati because, as with many grammar mistakes, it sounds to them more dignified (when in reality it is, of course, plain wrong).

I paused, however, because, although it sounded incorrect, its placement in the initial clause, i.e. before the subject which it was reflecting, might have made it only incorrect sounding. The M-dash aside further complicates things because he, the subject on which himself is reflecting, is in fact the subject of that clause’s verb (screamed).

But the subject of the full sentence is departure, which not only renders the reflexive incorrect but also renders fired a dangling participle. If you take the M-dash aside as well as some of the details out, the sentence reads ‘Effectively fired because of a fracas between himself and a producer, Clarkson’s departure leaves a void.’ The departure, as far as I can tell, was not actually fired nor was the fracas between the departure and a producer.

(And for those of you keeping track at home, the sentence before the highlighted one also has a misplaced modifier: the BBC was not at the helm of Top Gear for 22 years, despite what the grammar would have you believe.)

Gerunds, Verbs, Nouns

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.44.56 PMThe author of this article on the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy identifies Bloom’s original Taxonomy as organized by gerunds. Unfortunately, there are no gerunds in sight in Bloom’s original Taxonomy. Those are most certainly nouns that are derived from verbs, but that is not at all what a gerund is. A gerund, of course, is a verb used as a noun (similar to how a participle is a verb used as an adjective), whose ending in English is -ing (which, unfortunately, is also a participial ending, which leads to all sorts of confusion): Running is fun (i.e. the act of running is fun).

Interestingly enough, of course, the verbs that are identified in the revised Bloom are in fact gerunds themselves, as well as being verbs (gerunds being verbal nouns). The author is not incorrect to identify the revised taxonomy as populated by verbs, but these -ing words are the gerunds of the two (again, verbs used as nouns). The author too is not incorrect to say that the shift from the original to the revised is one of noun to verb; the words of the original are indeed nouns, but they are not gerunds.