1. I comforted a crying kid.
  2. I comforted a kid crying.

Is there any difference of the two sentences above in meaning?

  • 3
    Sentence (2) might be ambiguous between: "I comforted a kid who was crying" and "I comforted a kid while I was crying".
    – DyingIsFun
    May 25 '16 at 2:28

(1) I comforted a crying kid.

(2) I comforted a kid crying.

Pragmatically, there’s no real difference, since they both mean “Some kid was crying and I comforted it”.

You didn't ask, but grammatically there is a difference in the role of "crying". In (1) the pre-modifier "crying" is a verb phrase (VP) whose head is the gerund-participle "crying", but in (2), the post-modifying verb "crying" is head of a non-finite gerund-participial clause, whose meaning is similar to the relative clause in I comforted a kid who was crying.


It's possible to distinguish, though usually the two interpretations are the same, in effect. The post-nominal modifier, "kid crying", refers to a temporary or accidental characteristic, but the pre-nominal modifier, "crying kid", refers to a permanent or essential quality. If the kid differs from other kids in crying a lot of the time, then even at a time when the kid happened not to be crying, you could refer to him as the crying kid, but not as the kid crying.

In the 17th century Port Royal Logic, this difference was illustrated (in the English translation) with the examples "the visible stars", which are those with an inherent characteristic of being bright enough to be visible without aid, and "the stars visible", which on a cloudy night might not include any stars at all.


None that I can see. In the sentence 'comforted' is the verb and 'crying' is an adjective that applies to 'kid'. In either order it can be understood what the action was and to what it applies. I would say that #1 is a more common usage.

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