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I know that a gerund is a noun, so it should be modified by an adjective. However, it is also a verb form. Can I modify it by using an adverb?

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If you modify a gerund "from the outside", you treat it as a noun, and so you use an adjective:

That's quick thinking! (= that is a quick act of thinking)

I heard a faint rustling of feathers or clothes.

When emphasising the nominal aspect of a gerund as above, this normally corresponds with expressing the agent of the action with of. When you use a or an, this forces you to emphasise the nominal aspect.


But you can also modify a gerund from within the gerundial construction, where it functions as a verb, so you use an adverb:

She left by quickly crossing the street and hailing a cab.

I don't like speaking softly when there is no need.

Emphasising the verbal aspect of a gerund as above usually corresponds with not expressing the agent at all within the gerundial construction (but rather outside of it, e.g as the subject of the main clause, or the object, or whatever).

  • I've deleted my answer in deference to Cerberus' response. It is always great to learn something from this forum. My thanks to both of you. – Michael Owen Sartin Nov 5 '13 at 2:37
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    @MichaelOwenSartin: You are too kind! I am obsessed with gerunds. – Cerberus Nov 5 '13 at 2:41
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    No, the -ing form modified by an adjective is always a noun, not a gerund. Evidence is that it never takes a direct object (because nouns can't take direct objects). – Greg Lee Jan 2 at 3:24
  • @GregLee: And why is the test "can have direct object" conclusive on its own? That conclusiveness requires motivation. Gerunds are clearly somewhere in between nouns and verbs or both, so they will not conform too all the normal criteria of one group or the other, and a single simple criterion would be unlikely to be fair. – Cerberus Jan 2 at 10:56
  • @Cerberus, That makes sense. However, the -ing word which is modified by an adjective acts only like a noun -- it has no verbal properties. It can be preceded by an article like other nouns, and modified by other noun modifiers, and it cannot take an adverb modifier (unlike a verb). "Gerund" is not a part of speech -- it's a verb, nothing but a verb, and it is not intermediate between noun and verb. It may fool you into thinking it's a noun, but that doesn't make it one. – Greg Lee Jan 2 at 11:40

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