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Consider the following sentence, please:

I don't like these comments coming from you.

How would a native speaker of English analyze the above sentence? I tried to analyze it myself in the following ways:

1) I don't like these comments that are coming from you, with a relative clause at the end and probably an emphasis on the phrase 'these comments.'

2) I don't like these comments' coming from you, with an apostrophe after 'comments', meaning "I don't like the fact that they are coming from you." 'coming from you' functions as a gerund phrase here.

3) I don't like (these comments) and also (the fact that they're coming from you), with "LIKE" as a di-transitive verb and the two bracketed parts as its two objects. An analogy can be drawn with the verb "see" in the following sentence: "I saw him doing this."

So, my question is: To a native speaker, which one/ones seems/seem correct. I know a proper context could limit the number of analyses of the given sentence. But, without a given context, in how many possible ways the above sentence could be interpreted by a native speaker is of my concern. Thank you in advance.

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    Language is ambiguous. Both (1) and (2) are possible, and. I don't know if there's any good way to tell which one the sentence is more likely to be perceived as without doing a massive survey of native English speakers. Feb 22, 2020 at 11:19
  • It seems strange that you wouldn't mind the same comments if made by a different person.
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 22, 2020 at 11:22
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    I'm trying to think of a context where "I don't like these comments[,] coming from you" would be idiomatic. In speech, I think an afterthought (explanatory) "I don't like these comments – coming from you" is most probable, with the sense "Comments like these I usually ignore totally – but it's sad to hear them coming from you". "I find your comments offensive" (etc) seems far more likely for your sense (1). Perhaps a different example would sound suitably idiomatic and ambiguous! Feb 22, 2020 at 11:40
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    @Edwin Ashworth: I don't like those glasses on your face almost certainly means that you think those glasses might look good on somebody else, but not on you. However, I don't like that cut on your face almost certainly means that you don't like the cut, and not that the cut would look better on somebody else. Feb 22, 2020 at 12:37
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    I don't like that fireplace in our front room. Getting warm. Feb 22, 2020 at 13:00

2 Answers 2

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Without additional context, one can't tell what these comments might be, nor whether the addressee actually made them, nor why the speaker says they don't like them. Presumably the addressee knows all this.

What one can tell is that the speaker is angry with the addressee and has decided that (1) the addressee is responsible for the comments, and (2) the speaker is going to tell the addressee exactly why and how much they don't like them, probably in what could be described as a harangue. This implies that the speaker has, or is trying to establish, an authoritarian relation with the addressee that will allow the speaker to harangue them at length.

It seems more about emotions and power than "comments".

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So, my question is: To a native speaker, which one/ones seems/seem correct.

This non-native speaker thinks the sentence sounds just fine. The correct (and only possible) interpretation is number 2. I'd drop the accent though : I don't like these comments coming from you (of all people). Also, it is not a gerund and it is not a phrase. "These comments coming from you" is only an auxiliary short of being a full-blown, finite clause. Grammatically speaking this ing clause is a catenative complement of the verb "like" . It is not uncommon at all for the ing clause to have an overt subject as in your sentence. Unlike catenative sentences involving to-infinitivals, the NP that comes in between the two verbs in partcipial catenatives is relatively rarely understood as the (semantic or syntactic) object of the matrix verb. In the case of the verb "like" in the catenative conatruction, the intervening NP is understood as the subject of the ing clause

I think that "these" in "these comments" stands in the way of interpretation 1. If you drop it, the first interpretation works and the second one doesn't. (at least how I read it at this moment, I may change my mind). There could be ambiguity in this construction, for example:

I don't like people coming to this place.

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  • "Also, it is not a gerund and it is not a phrase." This isn't true. Firstly, it's a gerund phrase and secondly, it's a phrase because "coming from you" doesn't have a subject. You say "Unlike catenative sentences involving to-infinitivals, the NP that comes in between the two verbs in partcipial catenatives is relatively rarely understood as the (semantic or syntactic) object of the matrix verb." I don't think this is right either. Because in " I want you to do this", the pronoun "you" isn't understood as the semantic object of the matrix verb "want."
    – Mr. X
    Feb 22, 2020 at 23:05
  • Rizan Malik if you are so sure that my claims are "untrue", why don't you answer your own question here. Before you do that I'd suggest you learn about the terms "phrase" and "clause" in more detail. I can see that at this point you will not benefit much from my answer. Also, you have misquoted me saying that the object of the to-infinitival MUST be its SEMANTIC object. I never said that. The intervening NP in the to-infinitival catenative construction is typically but not always the semantic object of the matrix verb (and always its syntactic object) .
    – user97589
    Feb 23, 2020 at 10:28

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