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When discussing faulty parallelism in Merriam Webster's (1994) Dictionary of English Usage, they use the following sentence to illustrate faulty parallelism, but in doing so they refer to "taking too many drugs" as a participial phrase. Wouldn't the phrase actually be a gerund phrase since "taking too many drugs" is one of the subjects of the sentence?

Here's the sentence: "To drink heavily and taking too many drugs are bad for your health."

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Yes, I agree with your assessment. The sentence "To drink heavily and taking too many drugs are bad for your health" lacks parallelism as written. The obvious way of fixing this would be to change it to "Drinking heavily and taking too many drugs are bad for your health." In that case, "Drinking heavily" is a gerund phrase, and "taking too many drugs" is also a gerund phrase. Each one is a verb phrase that is functioning like a noun. When joined by "and," they form the compound subject of the verb "are." This is comparable to saying, "Heavy alcohol consumption and excessive drug use are bad for your health."

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    But they don't function as nouns. Noun is a word class (POS), not a function. "Drinking heavily" belongs to the category 'gerund-participial clause' and its function is that of 'subject'.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 6:06
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    @BillJ Well, let's see. Oxford Languages defines a gerund as "a form that is derived from a verb but that functions as a noun." Wikipedia says, "A gerund is any of various nonfinite verb forms in various languages; most often, but not exclusively, one that functions as a noun." Purdue Online Writing Lab says, "A gerund is a verbal that ends in -ing and functions as a noun... Since a gerund functions as a noun, it occupies some positions in a sentence that a noun ordinarily would, for example: subject, direct object, subject complement, and object of preposition."
    – zunojeef
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 20:31
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    It's true that some gerund-participial clauses can be replaced with nouns, but by no means all of them. The point is that a gerund-participial does not function as a noun. The functions in a clause are subject, object, complement etc., and the categories (parts of speech) are noun, verb, adjective etc. "Drinking heavily" belongs to the category 'subordinate clause' and its function is that of subject. In a tree diagram, those are the labels that would be assigned to it.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 6:58
  • Note that the classification of non-finite subordinate clauses is based on the type of head verb, not on spurious analogies with the parts of speech. In other words, we don't call clauses nouns!
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 6:58
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    Gerunds (if these are gerunds; I haven't looked yet) are always clauses, though often only the VP appears. But the subject is always recoverable. Same for participle clauses. The difference is that gerunds are used as nouns. Participles aren't. The difficulty here, if there is any, seems to be in the definition of noun. I'd say the infinitive and -ing clauses are used as nouns. But not everybody will accept that, because they categorize their terms differently. That doesn't mean anyone is right -- it's all just terminology, not syntax. The syntax is the same, no matter what you call it. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 19:56

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