What is the grammatical name given to, and the function of, the part of the sentence below in bold?

Maneuvring a tanker is likewise a daunting challenge.

  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is General Reference that OP's usage is a simile. As opposed to a metaphor which is much the same thing without using words like like. Although note that likewise is a single word, not two. – FumbleFingers May 24 '14 at 13:19
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    Thie is not really a simile at all, though it might have been mistaken for one before Andrew Leach clarified it (and FumbleFingers's comment did precede that). – Brian Donovan May 24 '14 at 15:03

As Gary's Student has pointed out, in the simplified example

  • Maneuvering the tanker is a challenge.

the subject of the sentence is maneuvering the tanker;
in order to be a subject, this must be a noun. But it doesn't look like a noun.
It looks exactly like a verb phrase, with a verb maneuvering
and a direct object noun phrase the tanker.

And that's what it is. A verb phrase, acting as a noun phrase. But not just any old verb phrase.
Maneuvering the tanker is a Gerund verb phrase -- that's what the -ing suffix marks.
This verb phrase is all that's left of the subject gerund complement clause

  • Indef's maneuvering the tanker is a challenge for Indef

after removing all the references to the indefinite subject
("Indef", the person who's doing the maneuvering and experiencing the challenge).
This has the effect of making the clause generic, true for any agent subject.

So, to answer your question about grammatical name and function:

  1. maneuvering the tanker is a transitive verb phrase (verb + direct object)
  2. maneuvering the tanker is a gerund verb phrase (with an -ing suffix)
  3. maneuvering the tanker is a gerund clause (with a missing subject)
  4. maneuvering the tanker is a complement clause (with a grammatical relation to the verb)
  5. maneuvering the tanker is a gerund subject complement clause (subject of be a challenge)
  6. maneuvering the tanker is a noun clause (with a missing subject)
  7. maneuvering the tanker is a noun phrase (because it functions as the subject)

These are all true, simultaneously, depending on which aspect of the sentence you're talking about.

- that a clause is any constituent with a subject and a verb
(though the subject may only be implied in context, as here),
- that a verb phrase is just a clause with a missing subject,
- that a clause can be the subject or the object of a verb
(and therefore a clause can itself be the subject, or object, of another clause), and
- that a noun phrase is anything that behaves like a noun in a clause.

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First let us simplify the sentence:

Maneuvering the tanker is a challenge.

We now see that the phrase "Maneuvering the tanker" is the subject of the sentence. The phrase acts as a noun and may be termed a nominal phrase. Since maneuvering is a gerund, it is also a gerund phrase.

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  • 1
    The more precise term is gerund phrase. – Brian Donovan May 24 '14 at 14:59
  • @BrianDonovan......Thanks! I will perform an update. – Gary's Student May 24 '14 at 15:13
  • There's lots more precision available for them as needs it. – John Lawler May 24 '14 at 16:03

'Maneuvering a tanker' is a nominal clause functioning as the subject of the the verb ' is' . It is a nominal clause because , ' maneuvering ' is a verbal. Verbals are forms of the verb that functions in other word classes. In this regard , the 'ing' form of the verb is a verbal, specifically a gerund, which in it self is a clause and it has the potential to function as the subject of a sentence.

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