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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.)

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  • 2
    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, 2018 at 16:33
  • 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?
    – Degred
    Jun 5, 2018 at 18:12
  • illegal dumping of waste into drains, not refuse into drainage. drainage is a process, not a thing; drains are things, a tangible structure that carries water away from a place. "refuse" is garbage but waste and/or wastewater are the technical terms that should be used here.
    – Lambie
    May 17 at 17:46

3 Answers 3

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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).

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  • You may call it a derived nominal, but it closely resembles the participle form of dump: dumping, which can be a "gerund: a word ending in "-ing" that is made from a verb and used like a noun." CamDic) You make a solid argument that a noun has the attributes of a noun, but if not for the existence of dumping, no noun would there be. 'Biking is fun' is CamDic's example of a gerund. No?
    – Zan700
    May 18 at 17:50
  • Why not correct the meaning first??
    – Lambie
    Jun 26 at 17:49
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Illegal dumping of refuse into drainage can pollute surface water or cause occasional flooding.

Dumping and flooding are nouns in this example.

Gerunds are modified by adverbs:

Carelessly painting the shed will result in a poor job.

(Verbal) nouns are modified by adjectives:

The careless painting of the shed will result in a poor job.

for those who are unaware, nouns and gerunds are modified by different POS:

Quirk & Greenbaum, A University Grammar of English

[5]Brown's deft painting of his daughter is a delight to watch,

[6]Brown's deftly painting his daughter is a delight to watch.

[7] I dislike Brown's painting his daughter (i.e. I dislike either (a) the fact or (b) the way Brown does it)

[...]

4.11 Verbal nouns: In [...] [5] painting is also a noun as can be seen by [...] not only by the genitive premodifier in [5] but by the adjective premodifier deft (as compared with deftly in [6]).

[...]

Participles: In [6] and [7], the genitive premodifier Brown's is used, but in place of the adjective in [5] we have the adverb deftly, and in place of the (of-phrase we have the noun phrase “his daughter” directly following painting just as though it was the object of a finite verb phrase as in [15], Traditionally this mixture of nominal and verbal characteristics has been given the name ‘gerund',

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  • One analysis / set of terminology. But ELU prefers statements to be accompanied by references from recognised authorities. CGEL, for instance, rejects the term 'gerund' as ill-defined. I agree with their stance up to a point. May 18 at 16:35
  • @EdwinAshworth - there is a point at which we can accept a priori statements, and I think this is it. CGEL, for instance, rejects the term 'gerund' as ill-defined. The authors might like to visit EL&U for clarification...
    – Greybeard
    May 18 at 17:10
  • They use the lumping 'gerund-participle'. And they explain why. May 18 at 18:33
  • @EdwinAshworth As I said, "The authors might like to visit EL&U for clarification..."
    – Greybeard
    May 18 at 19:00
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You are basically correct. A gerund is a nominal form of a verb. People usually give its part of speech as "verb", not "noun". Like other nominals, it can function as a subject, object, appositive, etc.

The gerund "dumping" heads the phrase "illegal dumping of refuse into drainage", which functions as a subject. The gerund "flooding" heads the phrase "occasional flooding", which functions as a direct object.

The difference between a gerund and a present participle is that a gerund, being a nominal, must represent a person or thing (including an action). For example, if "dining" is a gerund, then "dining room" is a room used for the action of dining (a thing). If "dining" is a present participle, then a "dining room" is a room that dines.

By the way, Greg Lee's answer gets to the fact that, when used in a sentence, a gerund may take nominal properties (e.g., "This slow driving annoys me.") or verbal properties (e.g., "Driving slowly annoys me."). However, "driving" would usually be called a gerund in either case.

Of course, there is no single authority for the English language, and terminology can vary greatly. What I've presented here is one quite common way of analyzing your sentence.

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  • Quirk: Towards the nounal end of the noun ... verb gradience of ing-forms (not a total conversion to deverbal noun; 17 paintings / *17 dumpings). May 18 at 12:44
  • @EdwinAshworth That seems right to me, though I could imagine even a gerund like "dumping" being "countified" in some situations. May 18 at 20:17
  • Make it a */?? then. May 19 at 19:04

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