Seeing the tiger, the man ran away.

I'd like to know whether 'seeing' is gerund or participle? may be explained.

  • In 'Seeing the tiger, the man ran away' 'seeing the tiger' describes an event happening. This is a verbal usage; the -ing form is the participle. In 'Seeing the tiger proved impossible because of the dense jungle', 'seeing the tiger' is behaving far more like a noun, both in role ('observation of the tiger proved impossible') and grammatical function (seeing the tiger is the subject). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 16 '15 at 19:14

It is a participle. A participle functions (externally) like an adjective; the word seeing describes and modifies the man in your example, so it is a participle.

Separating the participle from the noun it modifies by a comma, as in your example, is called apposition.

A gerund functions like a noun; if it were a gerund, then it would be hanging in the air in your example. You can test this by replacing it with a somewhat similar noun:

The action of seeing the tiger, the man ran away.

This doesn't work. (And don't add prepositions before the gerund to make it work: that's cheating!)

Tiger-aware, the man ran away.

As you see, it works if you replace it with an adjective, so it is a participle.

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This participle construction is a shortening for a clause with when/as.

1 - When/as he saw the tiger, the man ran away.

2 - when seeing the tiger, ...

3 - Seeing the tiger, ...

Temporal or causal clauses can be shortened by using participle constructions. Occasionally other kinds of clauses, too.

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  • Upon seeing the tiger: this is a gerundial construction, but it can just as easily be converted into a conjunctive construction such as your when seeing the tiger. I don't think this kind of conversion proves much? – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 16 '15 at 4:16
  • @Cerberus - Do you really think "The seeing of the tiger + the man ran away" go together? – rogermue Jun 16 '15 at 4:27
  • By adding "upon" you change the first part to a gerund construction. But generally such a sentence part is seen as an adverbial clause shortened by means of a participle construction. This is frequent with adverbial clauses of time (when/as/while), of manner/circumstance and of cause. Sometimes you even find conjunctions with participle constructions. – rogermue Jun 16 '15 at 5:46
  • With all due respect, but I think you missed my point. You converted a participial construction into a when seeing construction. I converted a gerundial construction into exactly the same. So you can convert either construction into a when seeing construction, which means that the conversion cannot be used to prove anything. Agreed? (What is more, the participial construction isn't really a shortening of anything: it's just a different construction. But I don't think you meant that "shortening" literally.) – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jun 16 '15 at 12:01

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