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Functions of the -ing

1.She works the Northeast region of the state selling insurance.
2. Travelling to Finland, I found that the weather got colder and colder.


I would like to know whether the "ing" and the "ing" have grammatically different functions. Thank you for your attention. I am looking forward to your reply.


  • @Leess

    A. What do you mean by the font variation? (ing vs ing)

    B. It's difficult to discuss the concept grammatical function. I'm not sure what it would mean in traditional grammar. I'll try to answer you in terms of what some modern grammars mean by grammatical function.

    First of all, -ing is not a function but a form. It's a word fragment (technically known as a morpheme) which combines with the bare form of a verb. In this case, the combination forms are selling and travelling.

    Now these -ing forms of verbs, these words do have grammatical functions.

    Some -ing words can function like ADJECTIVES. One example is travelling, as in
    a travelling salesman
    The other word can do the same — but only as part of a compound, as in
    _ a best-selling author_

    Strictly speaking, these are not adjectives. We can't say
    a more travelling salesman or a very best-selling author.
    And although we can say
    This salesman is travelling
    it means something different from
    This is a travelling salesman
    And we don't say
    This author is best-selling
    but rather
    This author is a best-seller

    But some -ing words have become adjectives, for example
    very interesting, more annoying, the most exciting
    The book is interesting, The boy is annoying, the race is exciting

    There is a term for the function of all these words, whether adjectives or not. The term is PREMODIFIER.

    And it's important to note that premodifiers function within a NOUN PHRASE.

    Just as an -ing word-fragment combines with a verb to make a one-word form, so in turn an
    -ing word may combine with a form of be to make a meaningful unit.
    Here's a list for sell:
    am/is/ are selling
    was/were selling
    have/has/had been selling
    can/could/will/would/must/might etc be selling

    The are termed FINITE VERB FORMS. Specifically they are the PROGRESSIVE finite verb forms.
    Their grammatical function is within a CLAUSE.

    The grammatical function of a finite verb form is to hold the clause together.
    In order for a clause to be grammatical

    • all finite forms demand a SUBJECT
    • the structure of the rest of the clause is determined by the verb from which the finite form is made. For example:
      sell normally demands an OBJECT (such as insurance)
      travel normally does not demand an OBJECT, but may be followed by an ADVERBIAL (such as to Finland)
      put demands both an OBJECT and an ADVERBIAL (e.g. She put the book on the table_)
      give_ demands a DIRECT OBJECT and either an INDIRECT OBJECT or an ADVERBIAL
      (e.g. He gave her the flowers or He gave the flowers to her.)

    It's common to use the word verb to refer to a function or a form or a word class.
    So some modern grammars use the term PREDICATOR for the grammatical function.

    FINITE CLAUSES in turn have a grammatical function within a SENTENCE. This may be:

    • the only clause — e.g. She is selling insurance.
    • the MAIN CLAUSE — e.g. She is selling insurance because she needs the work.
    • a SUBORDINATE CLAUSE — e.g. She wears a business suit when she's selling insurance.

    This where we come to selling and travelling in your examples. I'll discuss this in a new post.

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited April 2019

    This where we come to selling and travelling in your examples.

    Each is part of what used to be called a phrase.
    selling insurance and travelling to Finland

    Modern grammars call these NON-FINITE CLAUSES because they are grammatically almost the same as FINITE CLAUSES.

    • The main difference is that the are often without a SUBJECT — as in your two examples
    • However the structure of the clause is controlled by the verb is the same way, whether the verb form is finite or non-finite.

    There are two other types of NON-FINITE CLAUSE built around different NON-FINITE forms.

    • TO-INFINITIVE — e.g. She moved to the Northeast to sell insurance.
    • BARE INFINITIVE — e.g. We watched her travel to Finland.

    NON-FINITE CLAUSES can have different grammatical functions within SENTENCES.
    Some are the same functions that can be fulfilled by NOUN PHRASES.

    • SUBJECT — Selling insurance is profitable. Travelling to Finland will be enjoyable.
    • OBJECT — I regret selling insurance. I recommend travelling to Finland.
    • after a PREPOSITION —It was a scheme for selling insurance. It's an article about travelling to Finland.

    Another common grammatical function within a sentence is as ADVERBIAL.
    You can see this by substituting a one-word ADVERB with the same grammatical function.
    She works the Northeast region of the state enthusiastically.
    Gradually I found the weather got colder and colder.

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