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A bit of context: a couple decided not to spend money on unecessary stuff and they promised that to each other. Later, one of them says:

I dont believe that buying cookies will deliver on our promise.

Also that would mean - subject and a verb - "buying cookies will deliver" which I have a problem with as the "buying itself cannot deliver on a promise".

I would write it like this:

I dont believe that by/with buying cookies we will deliver on our promise.

Would that be the same?

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  • "buying cookies" as a concept
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 10:40
  • Buying is a noun (gerund) which can be a subject.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 10:41
  • Does he means to say "If we buy some cookies, we will have broken our promise"? If so, I guess your phrase should be re-built with "deliver" cut out. "Deliver" has the sense of "accomplished", like "accomplished a task", IMHO. A promise to abstain from something is a different one, it may not be announced accomplished, unless the person who had given the promise has died or unless he established some time limit for himself. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 10:43
  • @AndrewLeach Sure, I know it is a subject but does it make a sense? Because "buying" cannot (itself) deliver on a promise.
    – Liedank
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 11:10
  • Yes, it's fine. It means "the act of buying cookies".
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 11:15

1 Answer 1

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The sentence is both grammatical and logical.

The speaker is evaluating something, buying cookies (which is a gerund phrase used as a noun). She is determining that the act of buying cookies will not accomplish something. It has the same logic as

He is hungry. Eating will solve that.

This means

His eating will solve that.

This is functionally the same as

He will solve that by eating.

Obviously there is someone (or something) doing the paying. But that is always the case with gerunds. The person or thing doing or experiencing the gerund is often left unstated, and perhaps even unknown.

The original sentence could be expanded to

I don't believe that [our] buying cookies will deliver on our promise.

The gerund is the subject of the clause that X will deliver on our promise.

Yes, the first sentence is equivalent to

I don't believe that by/with buying cookies we will deliver on our promise.

The difference is structural, not logical. The gerund phrase, buying cookies is now part of an adverbial phrase by buying cookies that modifies will deliver rather than being the subject of will deliver in the first sentence.

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