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Hey, I'm watching a TV show, and there's a sentence:

I knew giving you that book was gonna come back and bite me in the ass.

Can I change it to:

I know gave you that book was gonna come back and bite me in the ass.

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You can change it to that, but, it would be grammatically incorrect then... ;-) – Josh Jan 21 '11 at 3:46
up vote 4 down vote accepted

No. The phrase "giving you that book" is the subject of the clause.

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+1 The clause is "[Subject] was gonna come back and bite me in the ass.", where [Subject] is "giving you that book". – b.roth Jan 21 '11 at 11:55

I guess you are thinking that "knew giving" is some funny sort of compound verb, and wanting to move the past tense within it; but that's not how the sentence is structured. There is an omitted "that" (which can often be done in colloquial English), so the structure is:

"I knew [that [giving you that book] was ... ]"

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I think most of us are inclined to say that "gave" makes the sentence ungrammatical. However, from a linguistic standpoint, we probably all understood what was meant, so it doesn't really matter which is used.

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If I met the second sentence without the context of the first sentence to explain it, I would have a very hard time figuring out what was going on. Also I am very opposed to the idea that "as long as it's understandable it doesn't matter if it's 'right' or not." Saying it right makes it much more understandable. – Hellion Jun 6 '11 at 3:35

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