Here singing is a noun:

  1. I like singing.

But what about here?

  1. I like singing loudly.

Loudly is still an ad­verb, right? But singing is still be­hav­ing like a noun, right?

So which is it, a noun or a verb? How can it be­have like a noun when it gets mod­i­fied by an ad­verb?


2 Answers 2


In your sec­ond ex­am­ple, the ob­ject of the verb like is the gerund clause singing loudly, which serves as the NP ob­ject of the verb here. The head of that clause is the verb singing as mod­i­fied by the ad­verb loudly. Like an in­fini­tive clause, a gerund clause is a non-fi­nite verb clause that can serve as an NP when em­bed­ded. Which of the two pos­si­ble verb forms you choose does­n’t mat­ter in this case, as these are equiv­a­lent in meaning:

  1. I like singing loudly.
  2. I like to sing loudly.

Had your verb been a tran­si­tive one, you could have added ob­ject com­ple­ments to your clauses:

  1. I like call­ing her loudly.
  2. I like to call her loudly.

Those ad­mit some ad­ver­bial mo­tion, but only within the non-fi­nite verb clause:

  1. I like loudly call­ing her.
  2. I like to loudly call her.

You can even have a dif­fer­ent sub­ject in that clause than you had in the main sen­tence:

  1. I like her call­ing me loudly.
  2. I like for her to call me loudly.

No­tice how when the to-in­fini­tive clause has a dif­fer­ence sub­ject, you need to stick a spe­cial for-com­ple­men­tizer there when us­ing the clause as an NP as we do here. Read more about these po­tent­ially cu­ri­ous com­ple­men­tiz­ers in this an­swer by Pro­fes­sor Law­ler or in these lec­ture notes from his web­site, or in the notes from this more tech­ni­cal lin­guis­tics lec­ture on the struc­ture of clauses.

Deep Struc­tures

I fear that un­til you move on from sim­plis­tic anal­y­sis fo­cussing merely on parts of speech to higher level anal­y­sis of gram­mat­i­cal struc­tures and how these em­bed as syn­tac­tic con­stituents, you will of­ten find your­self stuck with seem­ing para­doxes that can­not be re­solved so long as parts of speech are all you think of. That’s be­cause hu­man lan­guage uses these syn­tac­tic struc­tures, so no anal­y­sis of the for­mer can ex­empt the lat­ter and sur­vive.

Embed­ded deep struc­tures are a fun­da­men­tal part of how hu­man lan­guage works.


I like singing

is strictly speaking ambiguous, but the verb is the salient interpretation (c.f. "I like to sing").

Noun interpretation can be forced by adjectival premodification, as in "I like occasional singing".

In I like singing loudly, "singing" is a verb serving as head of the non-finite clause "singing loudly", which is complement of "like".

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