Can you explain why using "loud" as either an adjective or an adverb changes the meaning of the sentence. Is it just an English convention, or is there something deeper going on?

I like loud singing = I like turning the volume up on my stereo

I like singing loudly = I break wine glasses when I sing in the shower


1 Answer 1


Oh, I think I figured it out. :-)

I like singing loudly

Singing is a verb, and as we know, an adverb (loudly) modifies a verb.

I like loud singing

Singing is a gerund (verb functioning as a noun), modified by the adjective, loud.

And there's the kernel of your answer:

I like walking.

I like dancing.

Etc., these are things that I like doing. Here's another example of the same phenomenon. Compare:

I like guitar playing.

I like playing guitar.

...playing as a verb vs. playing as a gerund.

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    Gerunds are verbs so they can take com­ple­ments and ad­verbs as in play­ing gui­tar loudly. But when you have a de­ver­bal noun, it can no longer take those things; in­stead as a mere noun it now takes ar­ti­cles, ad­jec­tives, and at­tribu­tive nouns the way you have with good gui­tar play­ing, where play­ing is a de­ver­bal noun (not a gerund!) mod­i­fied by the noun gui­tar used at­tribu­tively.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 0:07
  • @tchrist I want to understand you but you are a pretty technical in your explanations. Are you saying that singing or playing are not both gerunds in the two situations described, but one is called a gerund and one is called a deverbal noun (which I am unfamiliar with). Am I right?
    – Joseph O.
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 0:18
  • @Johnny Thanks for your answer. I thought both situations involved gerunds so I'm going to wait on tchrist to shed some light on this. Said another way, how can modifiers change the grammar of the word they are modifying?
    – Joseph O.
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 0:22
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    @JosephO. Yes, I am. In modern analysis, we distinguish words whose form is that of the -ing inflection of a verb according to their function. If they accept complements and adverbs, then they’re still verbs no matter whether the entire phrase is used as a nominative phrase or as a modifier phrase. When they lose their verbness, they become deverbal nouns or deverbal adjectives. When you have a lone word without any words around it, it can be ambiguous whether it’s still a verb in all its glory or whether has been unverbed into a mere noun or adjective. There may be some adverbs, too, IIRC.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 1:26
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    @JosephO. That’s about right. John Lawler has postings about this somewhere here.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 15:30

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