“He was saved using advanced medical technology.”

I think “using” would be a gerund if you said “He was saved by using advanced medical technology,” where the gerund is the object of the preposition “by.” Does anything change grammatically when the “by” is omitted?

  • I think the meaning remains clear but only just. What changes is usually the ability to diagram such sentences. When shortened by common speech meaning is slowly lost.
    – Elliot
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 16:45
  • 1
    It could be, but more likely using is just a fancy synonym of with. The small verb use is almost bleached of specific meaning; it's a generalized instrumental that appears in many guises and idioms. Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 17:42
  • @JohnLawler Is there anything to be gained by analyzing the adverbial -ing clause in “He got fat eating hamburgers and fries daily” as a substantive one (and so a "gerund" clause), perhaps even one being used instrumentally with a tacit "by" or "with" relationship to the main “he got fat” part of the sentence?
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 19:03
  • I don't see why. You'd have to introduce all sorts of epicyclic exceptions to get it to work in the first place, and what good does it do? It's just an adverbial; we throw them in all the time, wherever and whenever. Gerunds are for arguments, not fripperies. Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


No it's not. A gerund is supposed to function as a noun in the sentence.

A: He likes running.

B: He likes it.

A: He was saved using ...

B: He was saved it ... (doesn't make sense)

  • 1
    Hello, Askeladd. Yes, that's probably the most usual usage of 'gerund' by those who still use the term. But since it's been used in many and conflicting ways, it's been largely ditched by linguists, and ELU is, after all, aimed at linguists. You'll probably find it easiest to find previous discussions on this if you search for 'ing-forms', though many questions have used ill-defined 'gerund'. // You also don't address 'by using ...'. Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 18:28
  • When you write John only showered nights and weekends, the Noun Phrase (NP) nights and weekends is clearly being used adverbially: it’s being used as an adjunct to — a modifier of — the verb not a core argument because it's not the direct object of showered. Given that, what’s to stop any other sort of NP, including gerund clauses, from being similarly used adverbially?
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 19:11
  • Indeed "He was caught/seen/found robbing a bank." "Using" replaces "by the use (of noun [phrase].)", which is a prepositional modifier
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 19:47
  • @Greybeard I think you're saying that 'He was found using a bank' and 'He was found using a tracking device' are very different deep structures. Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 19:21
  • @EdwinAshworth 'He was found using a tracking device' is ambiguous = 1' He was found by the use of a tracking device' **2' He was found when he was using a tracking device'.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 9:22

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