In this sentence, is "declining" an adverb? Gerund (noun that uses a verb + ing form)? Or adjective?

The university's board of trustees, being worried over declining student enrollments and their failing to secure additional funding from the state, has formed a committee to determine what cuts need to be made to staff and programs.

Is there a parallelism error here between "declining student enrollments" and "their failing to secure...". How would you fix it?

  • 2
    Do the test. You think it's an adverb? Replace it with another adverb. You think it's an adjective? Replace it with an adjective. "Being worried over slow/gorgeous/orange enrollments"? Ayup. "Being worried over slowly/beautifully/colorfully enrollments"? You don't think so.
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 21, 2013 at 21:13

1 Answer 1



"over declining student enrollments" is a prepositional phrase. Declining and students are both adjectives which describe enrollments.

Failing is being used as a noun (gerund), but it is very awkward. It would be better to use the word failure instead.

Also, personally, I would remove the word being.

  • Is there a parallelism problem?
    – Jwan622
    Nov 21, 2013 at 19:24
  • Also what kind of adjective is "declining"? Also what is "to secure"? Why do we use the "to" + infinitive here?
    – Jwan622
    Nov 21, 2013 at 19:26
  • I agree with @Mark about changing the wording from "failing to secure..." to "failure to secure...". I don't feel there is a parallelism problem.
    – Doc
    Nov 21, 2013 at 19:31
  • I don't see a parallelism problem either. I assume there is some kind of name for an adjective like declining, but I don't know what that name would be. The infinitive "to secure", in this case begins an infinitive phrase "to secure additional funding". Nov 21, 2013 at 19:44
  • Mark is right. Specifically, it's a participle - a word based on a verb, used as an adjective.
    – Cat
    Nov 21, 2013 at 21:25

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