Seeing the light despite the darkness

I got this "headline" from the Guardian newspaper. But as far as I know, it's not possible to use "see+gerund" when see does not mean visit. Then, why did the writer use "seeing" here? It's not the first time I've seen this. I have seen it in many places.

  • When you continue to see something, you are seeing it. I don't see anything wrong with this sentence. – Ébe Isaac Sep 3 '16 at 15:05
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    @dz I don't understand what you mean by it's not possible to use "see+gerund" when see means "see". – Andrew Leach Sep 3 '16 at 15:07
  • @Andrew Leach When it means - perceive with the eyes; discern visually. Because sometimes "See" means "visit" – dz420 Sep 3 '16 at 15:15
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    It's fine to ue "seeing" when you mean "seeing with the eyes." Here are a few examples: "Seeing red was my signal that it was time to step away." "Seeing shapes in the darkness is perfectly normal." "Seeing well is essential to being an artist." "Seeing the unwashed pots and pans in the sink made me very upset." – Nick Weinberg Sep 3 '16 at 15:20

Somebody either advised you wrong, or you've misunderstood the advice that was given to you about stative verbs.

The idea is that sentences like "I'm seeing a butterfly" usually sound odd to English speakers. This is an example of the progressive aspect, where a form of "to be" is used with the -ing form of "see." Traditionally, the -ing form in this construction is considered to be a participle. The advice is that non-native speakers should be wary about using the progressive aspect of stative verbs: it is not ungrammatical, but it often will sound wrong to native speakers.

The "gerund" construction, like in your example ("Seeing the light despite the darkness") behaves quite differently. It's quite common to use the -ing form of stative verbs as a gerund. You can say something like "Being a parent is difficult" even though people would pretty much never say something like "She is being a parent."

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Seeing the light despite the darkness

You might be misunderstanding what a gerund is or how it's formed. You do take see but you don't see+gerund, instead you do see+ing. Read belown

This whole thing is a gerund phrase; it has the gerund "Seeing," the direct object "light," and since a gerund is verbal it can be modified by an adverb or an adverb phrase, which here is an adverb prepositional phrase "despite the darkness" and like an adverb answers, "What?" "Despite or in spite of what?" The darkness.

Despite. prep.

without being prevented by (something)


See. v.

to notice or become aware of (someone or something) by using your eyes


"3f. A gerund is a verb form ending in --ing that is used as a noun. A gerund is part verb and part noun. It is formed by adding --ing to the plain form of the verb."--Warriner's.

"3g. A gerund phrase consists of a gerund together with its complements and modifiers, all of which act together as a noun."--Warriners.

John E. Warriner. Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition. Third Course. Liberty Edition. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich. 1986. 102. 105.

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  • I know about gerund. You are saying that if "state" verbs are used as gerund,then it's ok, right? But for the other places : 1) I am seeing your picture. 2) I am needing a gf. Those are incorrect, right? – dz420 Sep 3 '16 at 18:37
  • Be careful because when you use a helping verb (also known as an auxiliary verb) like be, was, am, etc. together with the --ing form of the verb, it is a verb phrase that acts as a single unit, a verb. I am seeing your picture. = am seeing = is a verb phrase in the Present Progressive Tense; and I am needing a gf. = am needing = a verb phrase that is in the Present Progressive. There are primarily four different forms of a verb, and the "ing" form is called the past participle form of the verb and ITS the one that is used as a gerund and also as a main verb in a verb phrase. Links in next com. – Arch Denton Sep 3 '16 at 18:47
  • @ArchDenton: The "ing" form is the "present" rather than the past participle form of the verb. The latter typically ends in "ed". – Ronald Sole Sep 3 '16 at 22:42
  • @ArchDenton You haven't understood what I was looking for. I am talking about "state verbs" which normally can't take (ing) form. I just want to know in which places we can break that rule. And "needing and seeing in the above sentences are the present participles, not past. Even as far as rule is concerned, those sentences are incorrect. – dz420 Sep 4 '16 at 2:55

Seeing is believing.

Cooking is fun.

Reading is my favorite thing to do.

Do you see how this works?

You can also do this:

Seeing my brother on stage, I was filled with pride.

Seeing the light despite the darkness is a sentence fragment, and we have to imagine some other words that would turn this into a whole sentence. Perhaps:

Seeing the light despite the darkness, I was able to feel some hope.

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  • You haven't understood my question either. I am talking about "state verbs" which normally can't take (ing) form. I just want to know in which places we can break that rule. Cooking and Reading aren't state verbs. – dz420 Sep 4 '16 at 4:31
  • Thank you for explaining. I got you started with editing your Question. I will let you add this last part. Just click where it says "Edit".... I'm afraid I can't help you because I'm not familiar with the term "state verbs". But I'm sure there are others here who'll be able to relate. Just try to make your question as easy to understand and answer as you can. – aparente001 Sep 4 '16 at 4:33

I had to look up state verbs here (http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/stative-verbs) because I'd never come across the term, but what I now understand is that the film title "Seeing the Light Despite the Darkness" to which the OP's headline refers does not use the verb 'to see' in a continuous tense. In order to do so it would have had to be modified by a part of the verb 'to be'.

The title makes implicit reference to the religious/revalatory meaning of the phrase "See the light" (see this definition http://www.collinsdicètioneary.com/dictionary/english/see-the-light) but the constuction 'seeing ' is very common (see http://www.ibo.org/ib-world-archive/january-2013-issue-67/seeing-the-world-through-different-eyes and http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/two-into-one-why-apple-would-want-double-cameras-on-the-iphone-7-1327688) The point is that this 'free standing' usage is common (though probably not strictly grammatical) but sentences like "I was seeing the Mona Lisa when I went to Paris" are definitely neither gramatically correct nor colloquial.

It is, however interesting to note that such constructions do appear in Gaelic dialects of English. Think 'You'll be wanting a Guinness then?" or "If you're going up Ben Nevis today you'll be needing your waterproofs!"

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