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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?

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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.

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  • 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

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