I realise this is probably a somewhat confusing question, which really has two distinct parts, but I thought of them in relation to one another so...

Firstly, with the phrase 'Having done that was a rewarding experience', is the word having acting as gerund or a participle (i.e. (My) having done that was a rewarding experience)?

Additionally, I was curious as to how to categorize the italicised words in phrases such as the ones below.

He paused, weighing up his options, then chose. The man, considering his options, looked into the distance. Having thought it over, I think it's a good idea.

What grammatical term describes these words? I would understand, for instance, if a phrase said 'He paused, weighed up his options, then chose', since 'weighed' is clearly a past participle describing how 'he weighed up his options'; however, 'he weighing up his options' is clearly nonsensical. Are they simply verb phrases with no relation to the subject? Perhaps there is an obvious answer; hopefully someone can provide it or at least offer some improved grammatical context to my question.

  • There's no "he weighing up" -- "weighing up his options" is parenthetical. "He paused, then chose" with an inserted adverbial clause to "paused." Weighing up seems just an ordinary verb phrase.
    – Kris
    Dec 16, 2017 at 12:58
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    Yes, it's a gerund (Doing that was a rewarding experience is better). The other -ing examples are absolute constructions used adverbially.
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 16, 2017 at 15:01
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    You said: 'weighed' is clearly a past participle describing how 'he weighed up his options'. No, no. It's just a garden variety past tense. Here's "weighed" used as a past participle: "He had weighed his options before accepting the plea bargain." (It's the tense called "past perfect.") Could you review the definitions of present and past participles and then see if you're still needing help? Dec 16, 2017 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


As pointed out in the comments, [Having done that] can stand as a gerund phrase with the "past gerund" [having done] as its head, making the first sentence completely grammatical.

Original answer

I've been thinking about this for a while and the first sentence still sounds a little awkward (perhaps even "ungrammatical") to me.

Having done that was a rewarding experience.

I think the problem lies in the fact that if this were a normal sentence, [Having done that] would be a gerund phrase acting as the subject. However, "having done" is the perfect participle form of the verb "done", and thus [Having done that] should be a participial phrase.

If this were the case, then the sentence would be missing a subject, which probably explains why my brain is having difficulty classifying it as either a gerund phrase or participial phrase. Adding a subject into the sentence makes it a lot easier to parse.

  • Having done that, it was a rewarding experience.
  • Doing that was a rewarding experience.

In the first sentence, the subject is [it], therefore [Having done that] is a participial phrase.
In the second sentence, the gerund form of "to do" was used, making [doing that] a gerund phrase that acts as the subject of the sentence.

As for your other questions, all of those -ing words are the "heads" of the participle phrases describing the subjects of the sentences.

He paused, [weighing up his options], then chose.
[The man], [considering his options], looked into the distance.
[Having thought it over], I think it's a good idea.


  • 1
    I agree that the first sentence is awkward; but it is wholly grammatical. The first phrase "Having done that" is a perfectly good NP with a gerund as its subject, and can stand as subject of the sentence. I think the reason that it is awkward is that "past gerunds" ("Having ppt") are fairly rare anyway, but to combine one with a past ("was") in the main clause is even rarer.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 16, 2017 at 13:47
  • @ColinFine Ah, that makes sense. Thankyou for pointing that out - I've never seen a perfect gerund used in this situation before. I guess this answers the OP's question then? I could edit my answer or delete it if you are posting one yourself
    – as4s4hetic
    Dec 16, 2017 at 14:10
  • I don't believe it’s possible for there ever to be a freestanding verb phrase using the verb’s -ing inflection that you can definitively state can only ever be used as exactly one of either a gerund phrase (read: as a substantive) or a participle phrase (read: as a modifier) in a larger context.
    – tchrist
    Dec 16, 2017 at 14:57
  • @tchrist - Could you rephrase your comment to make it easier to follow? Dec 16, 2017 at 15:54
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    @aparente001 All non-finite verb phrases headed by -ing verbs have the potential to be used as substantives in one sentence and as modifiers in another sentence. They are of neither flavor until actually used.
    – tchrist
    Dec 16, 2017 at 16:16

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