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Good evening everyone and sorry for the question which I am not even sure how to ask properly. Here is the sentence:

In this context, gene drives have been proposed as providing a new means of tackling a disease that still infects 200 million people and causes half a million deaths each year. [Gene Drive Research: Why it Matters, The Royal Society]

I am used to see a noun after "proposed as", not an ing form of a verb. Is it even a gerund? What is it? Why is it there? And more importantly which part of English Grammar I have to brush up to avoid being traumatized like this in the future? Just kidding. I am intrigued.

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    There is a noun phrase after as, but it's a noun clause -- a gerund complement clause: providing a new means of tackling a disease that still infects 200 million people and causes half a million deaths each year. – John Lawler Jun 5 '19 at 18:28
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Usually the element following proposed as functions as a noun phrase. The Oxford Learner's Dictionary of Academic English provides an example under "propose verb":

to suggest a plan or an idea for people to consider and decide on

...

propose something as something Remote Internet voting has been proposed as a solution to the problem of low voter turnout.

This suggests that the participle form providing in your example is functioning like a noun phrase. This is a common definition of a gerund - a present participle / -ing form verb that functions as a noun. (See this ThoughtCo article for a fair summary.) The gerund heads a clause explaining what is being proposed.

"Why is it there?" is a fair question, since a punctilious editor might point out that the sentence works fine grammatically without the gerund:

In this context, gene drives have been proposed as a new means of tackling a disease that still infects 200 million people and causes half a million deaths each year.

That said, the construction still works and may serve a semantic or emphatic purpose. Provide as a verb frequently takes as its object what is being given or made available (See the OLD entry for examples). Using providing also avoids issues if gene drives are not actually the new means but are only used to engineer or develop (or provide) the new means. So the gerund providing emphasizes that, if the proposals are accurate, gene drives would *provide a new means" for solving a problem.

  • I think I finally realized what bothered me about this sentence. "In this context, gene drives have been proposed as [genetic technologies] providing a new means of tackling a disease that still infects 200 million people and causes half a million deaths each year. [Gene Drive Research: Why it Matters, The Royal Society]". It bothered me because it did not feel like a noun close but rather like a sentence with missing subject... Right or wrong? – Oksana Jun 5 '19 at 19:01
  • Including my own possible edit at the bottom, all of these variants are valid. With all of these, we're changing around what serves as the head of the noun phrase or clause. I don't see any grammatical issue with the presence or absence of an object between "proposed as" and the gerund. – TaliesinMerlin Jun 5 '19 at 19:49
  • >>>>Using providing also avoids issues if gene drives are not actually the new means but are only used to engineer or develop (or provide) the new means. – Oksana Jun 6 '19 at 20:10
  • "Using providing also avoids issues if gene drives are not actually the new means but are only used to engineer or develop (or provide) the new means." I understand what you mean ("I will complete the project providing I have all necessary means") and if there were no "as" it would convey this meaning. "As " means "by way of" – Oksana Jun 6 '19 at 20:16

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