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I know these two sentences are correct:

Europeans consider climate change to be the most serious problem facing the world.

Perhaps the most serious problem facing the environment is global warming.

But I really do not understand the grammar. I think the first sentence should be...

Europeans consider climate change to be the most serious problem the world is facing.

And the second one should be...

Perhaps the most serious problem the environment is facing is global warming.

This is extremely confusing for Chinese native speakers, as in Chinese it does not make sense to say "A problem is facing the world" or "A problem is facing the environment".

Can anyone explain the reason?

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  • Where's this putative subject-verb inversion? Both your sentences have the subject before the verb. Have you charted out the constituents to see the actual grammatical structure here?
    – tchrist
    Jul 7 at 20:19
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    Possibly there is a legitimate question here, but the OP does not know how to phrase it...
    – Cascabel
    Jul 7 at 23:01
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    The answer to your question is that “face” is a verb that describes a relationship between two entities using a spatial metaphor. Both the relationship and the spatial relationship are reciprocal. If you face your friend, your friend is also facing you. Similarly, if a problem faced the world, the world faces that problem. In your examples, the noun phrase following facing is the object, not the subject, of the verb. Jul 7 at 23:05
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    @Cascabel Yes, I believe so. See my unavoidable ‘answer in a comment’ above. Jul 7 at 23:06
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    @Spider I can’t do that because the question’s still closed. I’d try giving it an edit to make it very clear why the examples are confusing (I.e. showing why those NPs look like subjects). That should help get it reopened. Jul 8 at 16:15