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Thread: Part of speech

  1. #1
    decksndrums is offline Newbie
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    Post Part of speech

    Hello everyone, this is my first post here, I have searched for the answer but cannot be sure I have found it, and so would like some advice.

    Is this your first time riding a horse?

    Is anybody able to tell me what part of speech riding is and why?

    I think it is a gerund, but I am not sure if this is correct.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Simon

  2. #2
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Quote Originally Posted by decksndrums View Post
    Hello everyone, this is my first post here, I have searched for the answer but cannot be sure I have found it, and so would like some advice.

    Is this your first time riding a horse?

    Is anybody able to tell me what part of speech riding is and why?

    I think it is a gerund, but I am not sure if this is correct.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Simon
    I don't think it is a gerund (noun). I think it is a present participle introducing an adjectival participial phrase that modifies "time".

    If we rearrange the sentence a bit, it will be clearer. Your first time riding a horse will be a memorable experience. In that sentence, the subject is "time" as there is really no place for another noun. The phrase "riding a horse" describes "time".

  3. #3
    decksndrums is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Thanks so much for your help. Much appreciated.

  4. #4
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    I don't think it is a gerund (noun). I think it is a present participle introducing an adjectival participial phrase that modifies "time".

    If we rearrange the sentence a bit, it will be clearer. Your first time riding a horse will be a memorable experience. In that sentence, the subject is "time" as there is really no place for another noun. The phrase "riding a horse" describes "time".
    I'm afraid I must disagree with this analysis. If 'riding' were a participle modifying 'time', then 'time' would be its implied subject. However, time does not ride horses!

    'Riding' here is, in fact, a gerund with the whole being equivalent to

    Is this your first time of riding horses?

    with - in natural, contemporary usage - virtually obligatory ellipsis of the preposition. (Compare, however, the slightly antiquated formula the first/second time of asking, where the preposition is retained.)

  5. #5
    tzfujimino's Avatar
    tzfujimino is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    I'm afraid I must disagree with this analysis. If 'riding' were a participle modifying 'time', then 'time' would be its implied subject. However, time does not ride horses!

    'Riding' here is, in fact, a gerund with the whole being equivalent to

    Is this your first time of riding horses?

    with - in natural, contemporary usage - virtually obligatory ellipsis of the preposition. (Compare, however, the slightly antiquated formula the first/second time of asking, where the preposition is retained.)
    Hello, philo2009.
    May I ask a question here?

    What about:

    Is this the first time [for you to ride horses]?

    I think the infinitive phrase "for you to ride horses" postmodifies "time", describing what kind of 'time' it is.
    Thus, it has an adjectival function.
    Do I understand it correctly?

    Thank you.

  6. #6
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    I'm afraid I must disagree with this analysis. If 'riding' were a participle modifying 'time', then 'time' would be its implied subject. However, time does not ride horses!

    'Riding' here is, in fact, a gerund with the whole being equivalent to

    Is this your first time of riding horses?

    with - in natural, contemporary usage - virtually obligatory ellipsis of the preposition. (Compare, however, the slightly antiquated formula the first/second time of asking, where the preposition is retained.)
    I don't agree. Nobody said "time rode horses". As a matter of fact, neither gerunds nor participles have subjects because they are verbals, not verbs.

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    I don't think that gerund/present participle are always clear-cut binary choices, and this is one of those cases where there are arguments for both. There are gradations between the two and it isn't always clear. Mind you, I don't lose any sleep as the forms are identical, so it can become an artificial exercise IMO.

    For what it's worth, I am slightly inclined towards the participle view.

  8. #8
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Hello, philo2009.
    May I ask a question here?

    What about:

    Is this the first time [for you to ride horses]?

    I think the infinitive phrase "for you to ride horses" postmodifies "time", describing what kind of 'time' it is.
    Thus, it has an adjectival function.
    Do I understand it correctly?

    Thank you.
    Essentially, yes: the prepositional phrase 'for you' adjectivally postmodifies the noun 'time' and is in its turn complemented by the infinitive phrase 'to ride horses', while in the original sentence 'time' was adjectivally postmodified by the elliptical prepositional phrase '(of) riding horses'.

  9. #9
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    Nobody said "time rode horses".

    Actually, your answer directly implied it!

    When a participle/participial phrase is said to modify a noun, that is tantamount to asserting that that noun is the implied subject of the verbal aspect/force of that participle. ( I use the term 'subject' advisedly: see below)

    Thus, for example, in

    The boy playing tennis is Sam.

    'boy' is at once both the object of modification of the participle 'playing (tennis)' and the implied subject of the action that it denotes (i.e. = 'who IS PLAYING tennis').
    You simply cannot have the one without the other!

    Thus if you assert, as you did, that a participle (riding) is modifying a noun (time), you must accept that it is also its implied subject, leading to the nonsensical entailment that 'time rides horses'.

    As a matter of fact, neither gerunds nor participles have subjects because they are verbals, not verbs.

    Many would take issue with that rather sweeping statement!

    In the strictest, narrowest application of the term 'subject', it is so. However, I use the term here, as do many grammarians, in its wider sense as the (possibly merely implicit) "performer" of the state/action denoted by the verbal element, so that we may for instance speak of 'you' as being the (implied) subject of the infinitive 'walk' in

    I knew that it was hard for you to walk away.

    simply as a kind of convenient shorthand for the common sense assertion that it is 'you' (the prepositional object in the surface structure), and not the sentence subject 'I' or some other person, who actually performed the act of walking.

    Of course, some may prefer the term 'agent' where a participle or other nonfinite verb form is concerned, but that is clearly an even less satisfactory option, since it can be applied only where the verbal element is active.

    The simple fact is that we do not actually possess any completely satisfactory general-use term to express this implicit 'doer' role with regard to nonfinite forms, and are thus reduced to appropriating the closest available analog, to wit 'subject'.

    As for your implication that a verb is not a verbal, I think you'll find that you are on equally shaky ground. A (finite) verb is, by definition, a sub-class of verbal, since the term 'verbal' means 'any form functioning like/as a verb' (which, I think you'll grant, finite verbs do!)

    Of course, for the sake of referential convenience, you or anybody may elect to make a restrictive use of the term to actively exclude finite verbs (just as some authorities find it convenient to draw a distinction between 'adverb' and 'adverbial'), but it is your choice so to do, not something innately predetermined by the basic meanings of the words themselves!

  10. #10
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Part of speech

    I don't think that gerund/present participle are always clear-cut binary choices,

    Well, we'll part company there! Personally, I have never had the remotest difficulty in distinguishing between gerunds and participles. One is nominal and the other adjectival. How could they possibly ever be mistaken for one another?

    and this is one of those cases where there are arguments for both.

    I don't think so...

    For what it's worth, I am slightly inclined towards the participle view.

    Since I have already offered an analysis that clearly demonstrates the nominal function of the -ing form in question (as the object of an implicit preposition), I have nothing further to add!

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