This is the sentence in question:

Never would he wish to injure the feelings of his schoolmate of so long ago, no matter how ridiculous/ridiculously he was acting, or how strange his beliefs.

The difficulty seems to arise over figuring out if the verb phrase is was acting, or if the verb is was, which would make acting ridiculous a gerund--or not? Is this the key to figuring out the word form?

Does the author chose the word form in order to tell the reader when the acting was happening in time, or is one form always called for in this arrangement by some solid rule? If so, what IS this arrangement?

  • 'How ridiculous he was acting' = 'How ridiculous he was when acting' = 'How ridiculous he was when on the stage' is unacceptable here on semantic grounds. He was acting ridiculously. Substitute 'stupid / stupidly' for 'ridic...' in the original and see which sounds correct. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:32
  • The "-ly" can be dropped. See related posts on this site.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


A gerund is not the same thing as a present participle even though both terms end in “-ing.”

A gerund always acts as a noun.

A present participle is always part of a verb phrase.


Sarah enjoys singing. In this example, “Sarah” is the subject, “enjoys” is the verb, and “singing” is a noun acting as the direct object of the sentence(gerund).

Sarah is singing. In this example, “is singing” is the verb phrase. “Singing” is the present progressive verb, telling what the subject “Sarah” is doing.

Thus in he was acting, was acting acts as a verb phrase and not a gerund.

So,ridiculously is the right option as it is an adverb.

  • 2
    'Ridiculously' is the correct choice, but the [gerund or past participle] analysis of ing-forms is not all that helpful, not least because 'gerund' has conflicting definitions. Brown's deftly painting his daughter was a delight to watch. illustrates why CGEL prefers to lump and ACGEL prefers a gradience. Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:26
  • "A gerund always acts as a noun." Huh?
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 13:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.