I recently used the following headline in a document:

Better Managing Your Health Means Better Managing Your Life

My boss wrote back that "better managing" is not grammatically correct. She's wrong, isn't she?

As I see it, Better = adverb, Managing = gerund (gerunds can be modified by adverbs since they have verb-like properties, right?).

Note: in this sentence, the gerund 'managing' is the subject in the first part and the object when used the second time. Right?

  • 1
    Grammatical niceties notwithstanding, I find the title a bit awkward. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 12:46
  • Perhaps something like "Managing Your Life Through Managing Your Health" would be better. All of the meaning, none of the clutter. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 13:13
  • I think this is going to be the best solution, because I want better management to be the thing we're focused on (the subject).
    – Elleinva
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 13:56
  • @JanusBahsJacquet you weren't saying 'managing' is a purely nominal gerund in this case, right? (i think you meant 'reading' in the other example). Wouldn't approaching it from a positive vs. comparative standpoint in this case be 'managing well" vs. 'managing better'? If so, I personally don't find flipping the word 'better' to before the word 'managing' awkward, but everyone else here seems to (and I'm hearing that it might also be considered wrong), so I will change my title! Everyone's help is greatly appreciated.
    – Elleinva
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


I would agree with your boss that this is ungrammatical.

Gerunds have verb-like properties and can be modified by adverbs, yes; but the placement of the adverb should in that case be parallel to the placement of the adverb in a corresponding verbal clause.

Some adverbs (can) have a difference in meaning depending on their placement; for example:

I just quickly went to the store. (= I was only gone for a minute)
I just went quickly to the store. (= I walked very fast)

Others have a preferred location, and moving the adverb makes the sentence ungrammatical (or at least very, very clunky and awkward):

We manage our time better by doing it this way.
?/*We better manage our time by doing it this way.

I nearly choked on my sandwich.
*I choked nearly on my sandwich.

The latter form with better here is perhaps marginally grammatical, but it is clunky. The latter form with nearly is quite ungrammatical.

When the verbal clause is transmorphed into a gerundic noun clause, the preference for a particular placing goes along, but the ‘weight’ of the preference in the verbal clause is strengthened, so that an adverb placement that in the verbal clause is unwieldy and clunky becomes downright ungrammatical in the noun phrase:

Quickly going to the store. (fine) / Going quickly to the store. (fine)
Managing our time better. (fine) / *Better managing our time. (clumsy to the point of ungrammaticality)
Nearly choking on my sandwich. (fine) / *Choking nearly on my sandwich. (quite ungrammatical)

At least, this is the case for me. It is possible that this is an area where different speakers have different levels of tolerance, and placements that in verbal clauses are only clunky, not ungrammatical, remain that way in transmorphed noun phrases.

As for your last question:

No, the gerund managing is neither subject nor object in either case. It is part of two noun phrases, of which the first is the subject (the verb being means), and the second is the subject complement in the same clause.

  • 2
    Maybe it's worth noting that better management of (your) health means better management of (your) life would circumvent this issue and keep the slogan intact?
    – oerkelens
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 13:09

It depends on the context (and the gerund). For example:

"Better reading can be achieved through practice."

I see no grammar faults here.

  • That’s a purely nominal gerund, though, which can always be modified by better as an adjective. Different scenario from the one in the question. If you use the positive instead of the comparative, your phrase would be “Good readin can be achieved”, but the question’s would not be “*Good managing our health”, which is completely ungrammatical. Purely nominal gerunds cannot take objects. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 13:05
  • @JanusBahsJacquet That is why I said it depends on context Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 13:06

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