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I'm still confused between the two, so please help?

"Life is so much more than just stealing and killing."

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    This question doesn't make sense to me: the gerund is a form of the verb.
    – herisson
    Aug 7, 2016 at 3:06
  • What I meant is 'stealing' and 'killing' functions as a noun or a verb in the sentence?
    – Song_Areum
    Aug 7, 2016 at 3:10
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    From that sentence it's hard to tell, but a gerund interpretation works OK. Aug 7, 2016 at 3:15
  • The options I see are gerund (a verb form that can act as a noun phrase) or a lexical noun (which is a noun that is derived from a verb). So I think a better title would be something like "is it a gerund or a noun?"
    – herisson
    Aug 7, 2016 at 3:16
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    Your two examples are strictly speaking ambiguous, though verb interpretation is preferred. Noun status can be forced by adjectival premodification as in occasional stealing / pointless killing.
    – BillJ
    Aug 7, 2016 at 7:06

2 Answers 2

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If you replace the words "stealing" and "killing" with "theft" and "murder" you can see that "stealing" and "killing" are gerunds; that is, a form of the verb that functions as a noun.

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    Yes, but if you add the objects "things" ("stealing things") and "people" ("killing people), then they are verbs.
    – BillJ
    Aug 7, 2016 at 12:54
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As long as this is phrased as an either/or question about verbs, it cannot be answered.  The problem is that "verb" is an overloaded word.  It falls on both sides of the either/or division. 
 

On the one hand, a gerund is always a verb.  A gerund is a verb with an -ing ending and a substantive function.  Gerunds show much of the same behavior as other verb forms.  They can take arguments, which are objects or complements.  They can take adjuncts, such as adverbs and adverbial prepositional phrases. 

While we are on this hand, the word "verb" represents a part of speech.  Other part of speech labels include "noun", "adjective", "adverb" and "preposition".  As long as we're talking about parts of speech, "gerund" is just a category of "verb". 
 

On the other hand, a gerund is never a verb or a part of a verb.  While we are on this hand, the word "verb" represents a part of the sentence.  Other parts of the sentence include "subject", "object", "complement" and "supplement". 
 

"Verb" is the only label that appears on both of these lists.  It is much easier to ask questions about the other labels.  We can ask "is this noun a subject?" or "is this subject a noun?" without causing any confusion.  It is much more confusing to ask "is this verb a verb?" 
 

One way out of this problem is to remove the word "verb" from one of these two lists.  One possible substitution is to use the word "predicator" instead of "verb" on the list of the parts of the sentence.  Let one list include "noun", "verb", "preposition" and so on, just as it always has.  Let the other list include "subject", "predicator", "object", "complement" and so on. 

Given this substitution, we can now split the title question into two separate and far less confusing questions: 

  • Is a gerund a verb? 
  • Is a gerund a predicator? 
     

These clear and separate questions have simple and easy answers: 

  • A gerund is always a verb.  The part-of-speech category called "gerund" is a part of the part of speech category called "verb". 
  • A gerund is never a predicator.  The part-of-speech category called "gerund" does not fill the same role in a sentence that a finite verb can fill.  A gerund makes a fine subject, object or complement, but it does not make the part of the sentence called "verb". 
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    'These clear and separate questions have simple and easy answers.' Some grammarians don't even accept the term 'gerund'. Aug 7, 2016 at 15:14
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    Um, so? OP uses it. I use it. What does it matter whether others don't? The argument remains valid regardless of whether you reject any of its premises. Of course, if you do reject one of its premises, then you cannot benefit from the simplicity and ease of its conclusion. Aug 7, 2016 at 16:30
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    Ing- forms are either verbs as in I saw them killing the birds or nouns as in I witnessed the killing of the birds. It's that simple. The term 'gerund' is redundant_. We can call the nouns 'gerundial nouns' but just noun is adequate.
    – BillJ
    Aug 7, 2016 at 16:57
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    There is a distinction between "I saw them killing the birds" and "I saw their killing the birds". "Killing" remains a part-of-speech verb in both (with "the birds" as its object) but it's a participle modifying an object pronoun in the first and a gerund modified by a genitive pronoun in the second. Those are both distinct from the deverbal "I saw the killing of the birds". The only one for which "noun" could possibly be adequate is the last. All of them remain distinct from part-of-sentence verbs such as "saw", primarily because only "saw" requires a subject in your examples. Aug 7, 2016 at 17:10
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    I'm not ignoring anything. Of course there is a distinction; that's the point I was making. In I saw them killing the birds, "killing" is of course a verb since it has "birds" as direct object. And in I witnessed the killing of the birds, "killing" is a noun, as evidenced by the determiner "the" and the of- phrase complement. Your other example (*I saw their killing the birds) is ungrammatical since infinitival clauses cannot take genitive case pronouns as subject; they require accusative case pronouns, in this case "them" .
    – BillJ
    Aug 7, 2016 at 17:23

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