first poster here.

I need help with the following sentence, written by my Vietnamese student.

He wrote "The forest being polluted is the consequence of our actions." Now I'm not looking to rephrase the sentence in any way, I just want to understand what the function of being polluted is.

It's not an adjective, although it is part of the noun group. It's no gerund as it's not a noun and I've already been through my grammar book, to no avail.

  • Hi Larana, welcome to English Language & Usage. If you think you might use our site again (and I hope you do!), please make sure you take the Tour. You've asked a good question but I'll give it an edit to improve its chances of success - you can always undo the edit if you don't like what I've done. :-) Aug 12, 2016 at 6:25
  • It could be either a passive (somebody was polluting the forest, and that was a consequence), or it could be a simple predicate adjective (it was a polluted forest, as a consequence). Since the one implies the other, there isn't much sense distinguishing the constructions. Let's just say there's more than one way to get to the same meaning. As for grammatical function, the forest being polluted is a gerund clause with the forest as subject and being polluted as verb phrase (passive or pred adj); the whole clause functions as subject of the verb phrase is the consequence of our actions. Sep 1, 2016 at 17:24

3 Answers 3


Being polluted is a passive gerund construction: being is the gerund-participle form of BE acting as the passive auxiliary and polluted is the 'past participle' form of pollute acting as the passive participle of the lexical verb.

The subject of this construction is The forest, and The forest being polluted thus constitutes a non-finite clause.

Traditional grammar treated being as a gerund, the nominal subject of the main-clause verb is, and demanded in consequence that the subject of being be cast in possessive form, "The forest's being polluted". More recent grammars treat the entire clause as the subject of the main-clause verb, and acknowledge that the subject of being may be cast in object form—the base form of nouns and of those pronouns which do not distinguish object and subject forms.


I guess I'd say it's a form of a passive voice...?

Well in this case the subject could not be switched. Say for intance "im reading the book " passive it would be: The book is being read by me."

Although in your example you would not be able to say "the consequens of our actions are polluting the forest" for that the sentence would have to be rewritten as "the forest is being polluted by the consequences our actions"

  • Interesting, it indeed seems to be a passive form, but what does it say about its function? I'm writing this assignment for my Celta course and am trying to be as precise as possible. Not knowing the precise function will force my to completely rephrase or review this part of the assignment. So again, is "being polluted" serving here as some type of adjectival group? It's interesting anyhow! Thank you for your time :) Aug 12, 2016 at 8:41

I would explain your post in a way I would have explained to my students. For our convenience we would split the sentence into two:

  • The forest is being polluted.

  • It is the consequence of our actions.

There are two finite verbs. The finite verb being omitted the sentence becomes a phrase along with the subject of reference. If we are asked to combine them into one simple sentence a) using the noun form of 'to pollute' or b) an adjectival phrase. The natural outcome would be :

  • The pollution of the forest...

  • { The forest (being polluted)}...

They both mean the same , to a great extent, read with the remaining portion of the last sentence — is the consequence of our actions.

The two fragments used above are in essence noun phrases. The first one has another noun within while the last one makes use of an adjectival phrase marked by () bereft of its finite verb. So, your friend's reference noun phrase has as an adjective phrase or reduced adjective clause in it functioning as adjective.

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