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Consider this sentence:

I am having difficulty with the test.

Would "having difficulty" be considered an adjective in this sentence? I imagine so as it describes the state of the person...

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    Although I can't find it labelled as such, I'd say 'have difficulty with' is cohesive enough to be classed as a [transitive, verbo-nominal] multi-word verb. There is a reasonably precise antonym that is a simplex verb ('master'). It's certainly a fixed expression (though 'have' declines normally), and is different from say 'We had a difficulty with the orientation of the sprockets'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 29 '19 at 16:57
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    No: it's not an adjective. "Having difficulty" is not here a constituent. The verb phrase "am having difficulty with the test" is in the present progressive aspect, where the auxiliary verb "am" is head and the clause "having difficulty with the test" is its complement. "Difficulty with the test" is a noun phrase serving as object of "having". The meaning is roughly the same as "I am experiencing a problem with the test". – BillJ Jul 29 '19 at 17:04
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I am having difficulty with the test.

No: "having difficulty" is not an adjective, nor is it here a constituent. The matrix (main) verb phrase "am having difficulty with the test" is in the present progressive aspect, where the auxiliary verb "am" is predicator and the clause "having difficulty with the test" is its complement.

"Difficulty with the test" is a noun phrase serving as object of "having". The meaning is roughly the same as "I am experiencing a problem with the test".

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It is pleasant to meet you, Having Difficulty, I am TaliesinMerlin.

Puns aside, reading "having difficulty" as an adjective or a noun would mean that you see

I am

and expect what follows to be a complement (ThoughtCo) that is or describes the subject, I:

I am TaliesinMerlin.

I am happy.

I am a person.

However, when the part following I am appears to be a verb, it is much more likely functioning as a verb phrase. In this breakdown of conjugations for have, "I am having" is a first person present continuous form. So that should be read together as a verb in continuous aspect. As a result, in

I am having difficulty with the test.

am having is the main verb phrase, and difficulty is a noun that heads the direct object difficulty with the test. The prepositional phrase with the test describes what the speaker is having difficulty with.

  • Actually, the matrix VP in full is "am having difficulty with the test", in which "am" is the predicator and "having difficulty with the test" is a subordinate clause functioning as complement of "am". The direct object is the NP "difficulty with the test". – BillJ Jul 29 '19 at 17:53
  • @BillJ I don't use CGEL, so for me the verb phrase is "am having" and the object is "difficulty," with "with the test" modifying the object. Perhaps you should write an answer reflecting your understanding of grammar. I think multiple perceptions of grammar are productive, but I'm not going to modify my answer to account for them all. – TaliesinMerlin Jul 29 '19 at 17:56
  • @TaliesinMerlin By definition if "with the test" is modifying "difficulty" it is part of the same phrase. Therefore, if "difficulty" is part of the object so is "with the test"! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 29 '19 at 18:17
  • @Araucaria Exactly right. :) – TaliesinMerlin Jul 29 '19 at 18:18
  • That's what @BillJ said. Maybe you're talking at cross purposes? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 29 '19 at 19:55

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