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Helping others is a good habit.

Which part of speech is "Helping" & "others" here? I think helping here is noun & others is pronuoun.

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  • Good question. OP could have shown some background effort, though.
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 13:00
  • @GregLee Helping is definitely no verb. It's a gerund i.e. a noun built from a verb. We can tell this because a gerund can have an article (the helping), a pronoun (my helping), an adjective (the most effective helping), and could have a genitive (the helping's power).
    – Ben A.
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 13:19
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    @BenA. "the most effective helping others is a good habit" is not a grammatical sentence. You can't analyse helping on its own. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 14:12
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    Helping is not a noun. It's a verb form, and it's got a direct object. That's verb territory. Distinguish between constituents (noun phrases, clauses, etc.) that function as nouns and nouns themselves. Individual nouns are single words. As has been said repeatedly to no apparent effect, helping others is a noun phrase and the subject of is. That does not make anything in it a noun. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 16:39
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    @BenA. Begin with the entire! example. Here, I'll do it for you. *"The helping others is a good habit." *"Open helping others is a good habit." See? Both ungrammatical. On the other hand, "Openly helping others is a good habit." See? Grammatical. If "helping" is really a noun, how come it can't be modified by an adjective, but it can be modified by an adverb?
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 16:55

2 Answers 2

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In the example "Helping others is a good habit", "helping" is a verb and not a noun. Since "helping others" is the subject of the sentence, it is a noun phrase, and ordinarily the head of a noun phrase is a noun, but not always. Consider the homily "To err is human", where the subject noun phrase "to err" doesn't contain any noun.

So from the fact that "helping others" is a subject, from the fact that it is a noun phrase, we can't conclude that "helping" is a noun. It might be, it probably is, but maybe not.

If we look within the subject noun phrase, "helping" appears to be a verb, not a noun. It can be modified by an adverb, but not by an adjective: "Openly helping others is a good habit", *"Open helping others is a good habit". Nouns can be modified by adjectives but not adverbs, so this indicates that "helping" is a verb.

Nouns take preceding articles (to form a noun phrase), but verbs don't. Applying this as a test, we see that "helping" in the example must not be a noun: *"The helping others is a good habit."

However, "helping" could also be a noun, since there is a suffix "-ing" that forms nouns from verbs. "Helping" as a noun is a little awkward, but other verbs converted to nouns with this suffix are okay. However, in the example, "helping" cannot be a noun, because it has a direct object, "others". Verbs take direct objects but nouns don't. (Logical direct objects after a noun have to be converted to prepositional phrases with "of".)

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  • Describing "helping" as having properties of both a noun and a verb without identifying it as a gerund is like describing a mule as having both properties of a donkey and a horse without ever calling it a mule. You miss a larger point.
    – JRodge01
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 12:15
  • @JRodge01 But I didn't do that. I didn't ascribe any noun properties at all to gerunds. They're verbs -- just verbs. I'm aware that some say gerunds have some properties of nouns and some of verbs, but not me. They're verbs. The phrase category that contains them is a VP, not a NP.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 2:21
  • So you don't identify gerunds as nouns. This means you disagree with the definition of gerund provided by Merriam Webster, Oxford, and Wikitionary, among others. Can you provide any sources that support your viewpoint?
    – JRodge01
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 3:38
  • @JRodge01 Evidence matters. Definitions don't. Linguistics is not about terminology. I gave my evidence.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 0:23
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"Helping" is a noun. It is considered a gerund, which is when an "-ing" verb is treated as a noun.

"Others" is a pronoun. It is referring to another unspecified group.

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    Helping others is a noun, or rather a noun phrase. Helping by itself is a gerund, which is a verb, if you're not playing with the full deck. The OP appears to be trying to do grammar by parsing individual words. Works great for Latin, but doesn't work for English because we don't have much to parse except constructions like phrases and clauses, and lots more parts of speech have been discovered in the last century. Modern science marches on. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 16:32
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    This answer is wrong. Please read the above comments on the question to see why. There have been many discussions of gerunds previously on English SE. This is a very tricky part of English grammar, and many, many people get it wrong.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 17:02
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 14:17

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