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In the cruel jargon of software, it is common to see the phrase "messaging system", as if "messaging" were an adjective. Yet if I am "brushing" my teeth, it's a verb. There is an act of "brushing", and I suppose I could invent a "brushing device".

Is the answer that it is all three parts of speech? If so, what is the name for this kind of word, formed from a verb and made so awkwardly useful?

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In answer to your question: yes. see gerund and participle. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 6 '13 at 16:45
possible duplicate of What exactly is an "adverb"? – FumbleFingers Mar 6 '13 at 16:46
... I know that's talking about a different "part of speech", but the same answer applies. In this case, messaging software is an adjective, "I've been messaging him all day" is a verb, and for me at least, "I use my iPod for everyday tasks such as messaging" is effectively a "noun" usage. Most English words can be used in several different ways, which means they fill different "parts of speech". – FumbleFingers Mar 6 '13 at 16:52
If messaging were a participle, which is what we call an -ing form employed as an adjective, messaging software would be software which messages. Messaging here is a gerund, which is what we call an -ing form employed as a noun; but it's a gerund employed attributively (which may be called adjectivally), as any noun may be used, equivalent to software for messaging. Compare running man (participle) and running shoes (attributive gerund). – StoneyB Mar 6 '13 at 17:19
@MattЭллен, you should make your answer and actual answer, not a comment! I'd like to accept it. – Sebastian Good Mar 6 '13 at 18:20
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes. Messaging fits in the three parts of speech listed.

Firstly there is the verb to message which is transitive and can be used in all the usual ways, e.g.:

I message people all the time.

Yes, Tony! I'm messaging them now!

I've messaged them, OK? Get off my back. Gah!

So you can see messaging being used in the present continuous sense.

Then there is the use of the present continuous sense as a noun, often referred to as the gerund.

The messaging will take place at 3pm today.

And thirdly there is the use of the present continuous where an adjective would go, which is often referred to as the participle. The example in the question of messaging system is a good example of that. You can see that messaging is modifying system much like red or unlucky would.

As far as I know, all transitive verbs work like this.

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I’m not so sure of that. I think in messaging system, that the word is a gerund and thus a noun. Think of one’s messaging style: that is certainly being a noun there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell; with running shoes, you have running as a noun, but with running water, it is an adjective. One test is to try to use the word predicatively: “Is the water running?” Yes, so it is an adjective, but “Are the shoes running?” No: they are shoes for running, so it is a noun. With messaging system, it seems to fail to predicate test, at least for me. – tchrist Aug 10 '13 at 23:28
Depends on how you look at it. It's either a system for messaging or a system that is messaging. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 11 '13 at 8:04
@tchrist In messaging system are you talking about the messaging or the system? system is the noun, so messaging is being used as an adjective as it's describing a type of system. The same applies to your other examples. It's like water bowl. water is a noun that is being used as an adjective. – CJ Dennis Jan 19 at 1:07

It can be all three!

Messaging is fun!


I'm messaging my great-uncle Jehoshaphat.


Have you downloaded the new messaging app?


These are polysemes of each other.

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Jackson. Your #2 use of "messaging" is the present participle used as part of a verb phrase. The present participle used alone is either a type of noun (a gerund) or an adjective. When used in combination with another active verb (in this case - am) it is a verb phrase. Some call this construction the Progressive; others call it the Continuous. In this case, with a present indicative form of "am" I think it is the Present Progessive.

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An adjective tells you more about a noun. So in the case of "Messaging System", the "Messaging" tells you more about the System, making it an adjective.

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