Gerund (being sick) at the end of the sentence

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I have doubts about the argument that it is impossible to express two independent facts by means of a gerund form, as I was told in my previous thread. That thought does not give me the rest. :)

He went to work, being sick. (the physical state does not depend on the other action.)

He went to work, getting sick

If I put the gerund at the beginning of the sentence, then the whole statement does not make sense. BUT! If I put the gerund at the end of the sentence, the sentence does make sense and is logically correct, imho.

Am I mistaken?

user11470

Posted 2015-02-06T08:39:54.573

Reputation:

1Do you mean that both of you sentences will become senseless if the gerund-participial clause is preposed (shifted to the beginning of the sentence)? And what do you mean by "express two independent facts"? Does it mean "at the same time" or "different GP clauses can express different facts? – CowperKettle – 2015-02-06T09:02:56.650

@CopperKettle Yes (will become senseless). Yes (at the same time in one sentence)This argument was not expressed explicitely, but implied. – None – 2015-02-06T09:08:24.987

1

My guess is what you want to know is whether the gerund-participial clauses in your sentences are adjuncts. Here's a related question at Linguistics SE: Is Gerund-Participial a Clause Adjunct

– CowperKettle – 2015-02-06T10:39:35.900

@CopperKettle maybe. A useful thing to read. – None – 2015-02-06T11:50:17.833

@CopperKettle There is one important distinction between my thread and the thread you gave the link to. The gerund in my thread does not function semantically as a causative thing. My gerund is independent and does not reflect the reason. – None – 2015-02-06T12:14:12.350

Answers

5

SHORT ANSWER:
Neither version expresses two independent thoughts: the participle clause modifies the meaning of the main clause.

LONG ANSWER:
An independent clause requires a finite (tensed) verb. A participle clause/phrase like this cannot be an independent clause; it must be parsed as subordinate, either an adjunct (modifier) on one of the constituents or a ‘supplement’ to the main clause. The term ‘supplement’ is that of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which gives examples:

i  a. His hands gripping the door, he let out a volley of curses.
  b. This done, she walked off without another word.
ii  a. Realising he no longer had the premier's support, Ed submitted his resignation.
  b. Born in Aberdeen, Sue had never been further south than Edinburgh.

The [italicized] non-finites are supplements with the main clause as anchor. Those in [i] contain a subject, and belong to what is known as the absolute construction, one which is subordinate in form but with no syntactic link to the main clause. Those in [ii] have no subject, and are syntactically related to the main clause in that the missing subject is controlled by the subject of the main clause: it was Ed who realised he no longer had the premier's support, and Sue who was born in Aberdeen. In neither [i] nor [ii] is there any explicit indication of the semantic relation between the supplement and the anchor. This has to be inferred from the content of the clauses and/or the context. The natural interpretation of the supplement in [ib], for example, is temporal (“when this was done”), and of that in [iia] causal (“”because he realised ... ”). Both constructions allow gerund-participials or past-participials. [1265-66; boldface emphasis mine]

The position of the supplement is significant only if the interpretation is temporal: the supplement and the predicate of the main clause have to be set in their narrative order. But a causal supplement may be set in any position.

There is an additional twist when the gerund-participle is being. The ordinary way of expressing the fact that John was sick when he went to work is to employ the bare adjective, as TRomano suggests. Adding the otherwise redundant participle implies that you have some more complex meaning in mind, and consequently it virtually compels a causal interpretation:

Being sick, John went to work = Because he was sick, John went to work.
John went to work, being sick = John went to work because he was sick.

I don't think that is what you intend!

The version with getting is naturally interpreted as a temporal: John went to work and on the way started to get sick.


When the -ing form is employed this way it is called a present participle. The term gerund is reserved for situations in which the -ing form is employed as a noun or as the head of a phrase which acts as a noun. If you wish to speak of the form rather than the use you could follow CGEL and call it a gerund-participle, or you could call it simply the -ing form.

Traditional grammar treats constructions like being sick as phrases because they have no overt subject; some modern grammars treat them as clauses because the subject is inferrable from context. It doesn’t really matter what you call them, as long as you and your readers have the same understanding of the terms.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2015-02-06T08:39:54.573

Reputation: 176 469

Please could you clarify your last statement about my version with 'getting'. Can I infer that my version with 'getting' is possible or I don't understand again? There is some logic when I state that a man can get sick on the way to work. – None – 2015-02-06T14:13:22.423

If the interpretation is temporal, the supplement should always be inserted before the main clause? – None – 2015-02-06T14:23:41.753

2@Humbulani If all you want to do is say, as an independent observation, that John became sick, you would express this as an independent clause: "John went to work and got sick." If you wanted to say that he was getting sick as he left you would employ the predicate complement with no comma: "John went to work getting sick". With the participle clause, as CGEL says, the reader has to infer the relationship; in this case, the 'default' interpretation is that John started to get sick on his way to work. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-02-06T14:24:32.253

2@Humbulani The current version indicates that he departed for work and then started becoming sick. If what you mean is that he got sick first and then went to work you could do this with two independent clauses ("John got sick and went to work") or with the temporal participle clause pre-posed ("Getting sick, John went to work"). This would probably only occur if there were some prior indication of what made John sick. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-02-06T14:27:46.763

I was about to ask if "Getting sick (already), John went to work", and "John went to work, (and on his way to work) getting sick" suggest different things. Your last comment makes it clear. Thanks! – Damkerng T. – 2015-02-06T14:33:41.170

@StoneyB thank you very much! I like that grammar excerpt. I am going to find this CGEL and read it carefully. – None – 2015-02-06T14:38:37.130

@Humbulani Good luck! But I warn you, CGEL takes a substantial investment in money (it costs about $200) and even more in time (it runs more than 1800 pages). I've been working my way through it for several months now. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-02-06T14:49:43.103

2

Both examples in the original post are unidiomatic. That's not how native speakers speak.

As for the sentence being logical: logical shmogical.

He went to work sick.

Tᴚoɯɐuo

Posted 2015-02-06T08:39:54.573

Reputation: 116 610

It is a pity that my sentence is shmogical :) I graduated from high school long ago, and now I vaguely remember what I was told about a gerund in the high school. Thank you. – None – 2015-02-06T12:42:56.863

1Now, isn't that bare adjective simple and lovely? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-02-06T12:59:25.497

+1 for brevity in both the answer and the counterexample! – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-02-06T13:20:13.463

@TRomano your example is both simple and lovely! That's why I voted for your answer. :) – None – 2015-02-06T13:26:42.397