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The rule says, that you can not have an object after an intransitive verb. But this sentence, in my opinion, doesn't sound wrong? "Smiling was what the baby was doing."

But is it grammatically correct?

  • 1
    What do you think the "intransitive verb" and the "object" are in your sentence? – GEdgar Jan 19 '18 at 19:24
  • Echoing the previous comment: how are you parsing the sentence, and why do you think the included graphic is relevant to it? – JPmiaou Jan 19 '18 at 20:08
  • Where is the direct object in "Smiling was what the baby was doing"? – BillJ Jan 19 '18 at 20:13
  • Be is neither transitive nor intransitive in 'The baby was smiling' and related sentences. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 19 '18 at 20:31
  • The example sentence is in Engfish. – Rob_Ster Jan 19 '18 at 23:06

In your example, you have restated the original idea not by changing its voice, but by converting the verb smile into a verbal noun (traditionally called a "gerund") that is the subject of the main clause of the new sentence. Thus the example is grammatical, although quite awkward and unlikely to be uttered. It's the same pattern as if you said

Cocaine was what the baby was doing.

His income tax return was what the baby was doing.

Seventy miles per hour was what the baby was doing.

If smile were transitive, you'd be able to use the passive voice to say something like The mother was smiled by the baby. But you can't, because it isn't.

  • 1
    Baby sure has been busy. – Mike Harris Jan 19 '18 at 19:47
  • Except this quite precocious baby wasn't doing smiling. – KarlG Jan 19 '18 at 19:47
  • Oh right, I am sorry. I completely missed the fact that I had converted smile into a verbal noun. Should I delete my question, as it is a bit misleading? – Sebastian Nielsen Jan 19 '18 at 19:50
  • @SebastianNielsen If you think it might be helpful to other people who might make the same mistake, I would suggest you keep it, but if not, it's your question and you are free to delete it. – choster Jan 19 '18 at 19:59

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