I want to ask about the gerund and present participles on those sentences below.

  1. Mr. Wilkins would like some assistance setting up the audio equipment in the conference room.
  2. Mark offered his full cooperation on a project that is developing a new TV show.

I learned that participle functions like an adjective and mostly used to modify nouns. And gerund acts like a noun. It can be a subject, an object, the object of a preposition, or a subject complement.

In sentence 1, I thought 'setting up' modifies the noun 'assistance', so it is a present participle. In sentence 2, I thought 'developing' acts like a subject complement, so it is a gerund.

Is that correct?

  • A present participle is part of a verb, but it can act as a noun (gerund) or as an adjective. However in both of your example sentences the present participles are performing their primary roles as verbs. If your first sentence said "Mr Wilkins would like some assistance in the setting up of the audio equipment" then 'setting up' would be acting as a noun (it would be a gerund). As it is it is a verb stating what Mr Wilkins is doing. A simple example is "I am sitting in my chair". Here 'am sitting' is the present continuous form of the verb 'to sit' and is neither a noun nor an adjective.
    – BoldBen
    Mar 3, 2021 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


[1] Mr. Wilkins would like some assistance [setting up the audio equipment in the conference room].

[2] Mark offered his full cooperation on a project that is [developing a new TV show].

Traditional grammar calls "setting" and "developing" here present participles. Present participles and gerunds are verbs, not adjectives and nouns -- in your examples "setting" and “developing” are thus verbs functioning as heads of the bracketed non-finite subordinate clauses.

In [1] the non-finite clause is functioning as an adjunct in clause structure. In [2] it is complement of "is", with which it combines to form the progressive aspect.

Note that the traditional distinction between present participles and gerunds is not important. In fact modern grammar makes no such distinction, simply and sensibly calling both ing forms ‘gerund-participles’.

They are verbs, and that is what is important.

  • 1
    "Modern grammar" often makes that distinction, which is useful in some theories and not in others. They are verbs, but the first one is a participle phrase modifying assistance, while the second one is part of the standard progressive construction and functions as the main verb of the relative clause; that's a big usage difference. Mar 3, 2021 at 14:37
  • No: there’s no functional (your 'usage') difference. Both are verbs functioning as heads of their respective clauses. The first clause does not modify "assistance". Gerund-participials as modifiers in NP structure are semantically similar to relative clauses, which is clearly not the case here. It's thus a modifier in clause structure. As for the second, I already said that "developing" was used to form the progressive aspect. The fact that the clause happens to be a relative one is irrelevant here as far as category and function are concerned.
    – BillJ
    Mar 3, 2021 at 16:28
  • And I wouldn't call "developing" the 'main' verb. All verbs are 'main' verbs (i.e. heads) in the catenative-auxiliary analysis, which is the most sensible way to analyse auxiliaries.
    – BillJ
    Mar 3, 2021 at 16:29

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