What is syntactically the -ing-phrase in both the versions with and without the preposition? For example in He has trouble [in] keeping things in perspective right now.

Secondly, does the latter derive form the former?

1 Answer 1


There is no real difference. The omission of prepositions in modifying phrases is and has been common in English:

He lived there [for] several years.

Kiplng L 108 I shall always be threepence short in my accounts = I shall always be short in my accounts by threepence

Gissing G 197 she blames herself no end = she blames herself without an end.

Darwin L 1.209 I can hardly think there will be a coronation [at] this time [in] fifty years.

Thus we have

keeping things - gerund phrase acting adjectivally

in keeping things - Adjectival prepositional modifier (in + gerund phrase.)

Examples taken from "A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles Part7 Syntax V4 1949 by O Jespersen.

  • What would those "adjectives" modify?
    – GJC
    Oct 1, 2020 at 5:37
  • Their noun.....
    – Greybeard
    Oct 1, 2020 at 7:56
  • What noun? I genuinely do not understand it, the example was He has trouble [in] keeping things in perspective right now
    – GJC
    Oct 1, 2020 at 16:43
  • He has trouble [in] keeping things in perspective right now. The noun is trouble.
    – Greybeard
    Oct 1, 2020 at 17:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.