here is the sentence:

We condemn such behavior that can risk damaging a company’s brand and reputation

risk or damage, which is the verb? I remember that two verb ( one verb after another) must use the verb+Infinitive, so why not "risk to damage" ?


Risk is the verb and damaging is a "verb+ing" form used as a noun (the object of the verb). Substitute this with another meaningful noun:

  • When children start smoking, they don't realize that they're risking their health.
  • She risked her life for him.
  • She risked damaging the company's brand name and reputation just to get a bit of publicity.

A simple way to distinguish between verbs and gerunds (noun forms) is that a "verb+ing" form is only a verb when it is accompanied by a form of the "be" verb, as in these examples:

  • She is damaging his car.
  • The are damaging his car.
  • He has been damaging his own car.
  • He will be damaging his own car.

As for your sentence, it may be better to say, "We condemn behavior that risks damaging the company's brand name and reputation" but I'm guessing it's legalese.

(Edited for clarity based on the comments below.)

  • I see :) 'a company’s brand and reputation' is the object of 'damage' or the sentence?
    – lovespring
    Jan 18 '11 at 8:43
  • Damaging a company's brand and reputatation is a noun phrase and is the object of the verb risk.
    – Tragicomic
    Jan 18 '11 at 9:25
  • so, the verb 'risk' has two objects: damaging and the noun phrase? Can an English verb has two objects?
    – lovespring
    Jan 18 '11 at 9:28
  • The entire phrase "Damaging a company's... " is the object (one object). Verbs in English can have two objects, but they are much rarer. For example, in "He told me a story", both "me" and "a story" are the objects of the verb to tell. However, in your sample sentence, the verb is risk and the noun phrase damaging a company's brand and reputation is the object.
    – Tragicomic
    Jan 18 '11 at 9:33

Tragicomic is correct that both "me" and "story" are objects of the verb "told" in the sentence "he told me a story," but they're not the same kind of object: "story" is the direct object, "me" the indirect object. You can find each by asking a series of questions using already known part of the sentence.

Beginning with the subject and predicate, add "what": He told what? The answer, a story, is the direct object.

Next, ask a question using the subject, predicate and direct object, and add "to whom" or "to what": He told a story to whom? The answer to this question, "me", is the indirect object.

Applying the first question to the original sentence yields this: Behavior risk what? The answer, "damaging a company’s brand and reputation" is, as Tragicomic said, the direct object. Direct objects are always nouns. In this case, the phrase begins with the "ing" form of a verb which, when used as a noun, is a gerund. Since it's grouped with a bunch of other words, the object is a gerund phrase. Within that phrase, we can play some of the same fun games we played with the sentence as a whole, asking "damaging what?" to get the direct object "brand, reputation" of the verb damage.

The fact that all this takes so long is one reason why, when I'm teaching English, I keep the grammar to a minimum.

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