I would like to check if my reasoning is correct.

Illegal dumping of refuse into drainage can pollute surface water or cause occasional flooding

Dumping is a gerund - nominal gerundive clause where gerund is preceded by an adjective, functioning as a subject. Flooding is pretty much the same case but it is an object.

The difference between gerunds (verbs) and pure nouns is not easy since I am not a native speaker. The same is true for participles and adjectives (the rule of thumb that adjectives can be graded and intensified does not always work because I am not sure if it sounds natural or not.)

  • Yes, "dumping" is here a noun, and "illegal dumping of refuse into drainage" is thus a noun phrase as subject. And "flooding" is also a noun as head of the NP "occasional flooding", which is functioning as direct object of "cause". "Dumping" and "flooding" can be verbs, as in "Dumping toxic waste is illegal" / "The riverbank burst, flooding the village". Gerundial nouns are a subclass of noun morphologically, but not syntactically, in that there’s no reason to distinguish syntactically between the nouns in "illegal dumping" and "illegal aliens". – BillJ Jun 5 '18 at 16:33

No, "dumping" is not a gerund. As @BillJ says in his comment above, in your example "dumping" is a noun. I would call it a "derived nominal" from the verb "dump". It is shown to be a noun in your example by the fact that it is modified by an adjective, "illegal", that it could be preceded by an article "the", and by the fact that the logical object "refuse" must be preceded by "of".

The corresponding gerund (which is a verb) would be "illegally dumping refuse". Note, no article, modifying adverb rather than adjective, no "of" before the logical object (which is a real direct object).


But in he is capable of doing... a gerund doing is also preceded by adjective. Does the preposition of make the difference? And what about flooding? It is modified by occasional, thus it is not a gerund either?

  • This seems like a separate question or a clarifying comment, not an answer. In "he is capable of doing", "capable" is a predicate adjective; it does not modify "doing". – sumelic Jun 5 '18 at 19:56

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