Participles Fused and Otherwise

By Maeve Maddox

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If you don’t know what a fused participle is, read on.

The present participle is the form of the English verb that ends in –ing:

walk walked walking

To function as a verb, the present participle must be used with an auxiliary verb:

Jack is repairing the roof.

Used without an auxiliary verb, the participle retains some shadow of its verbal origin, but functions as other parts of speech.

participle functioning as adjective:

Mr. Jones is a loving husband.

participle introducing participial phrase:

Sitting by the window, I watched the parade. (The phrase is adjectival, describing “I”)

participle functioning as a noun:

The –ing participle form can also be used as a noun. In that case it gets a new name and is called a gerund.


Gardening is my favorite hobby. (noun, subject of “is”)
He likes shooting skeet. (noun, object of “likes”)
He loves to talk about hunting. (noun, object of the preposition “about”)
Do you mind my asking a question? (noun, object of “mind”)

NOTE on Example 4: If I had written Do you mind me asking a question, many of my readers would be quick to scold me for having written a sentence containing a fused participle.

Fused participles
The term fused participle is credited to H.W. Fowler, who hated them. Here’s the definition from the OED:

fused participle – a participle regarded as being joined grammatically with a preceding noun or pronoun, rather than as a gerund that requires the possessive, or as an ordinary participle qualifying the noun.

The fused participle resides in the same category as the split infinitive: some writers abhor it and will avoid it any cost, while others recognize that, sometimes, “defusing” a fused participle is worse than leaving it alone.

My practice is to use a possessive noun or pronoun before a gerund in a sentence like the one above. If the result is ugly or nonsensical, I figure out how to rewrite the sentence without using the -ing word. Speaking is another matter. In conversation I probably fuse participles all over the place.

Some views regarding the fused participle:

H. W. Fowler
David Rusinoff (click on “fused participle” in the frame)
American Heritage Book of English Usage
Columbia Guide to Standard American English
William Safire

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7 Responses to “Participles Fused and Otherwise”

  • BirdyNumNum

    I don’t know about fused, but I’m CONfused!!!!

  • Phamen

    Thank you for your lesson.

  • Phamen

    Thank you very much for your lesson! It helps me not confused.

  • k. Radha

    Hello Sir,

    I request you to help me to combine the separate sentences using/expressing participle form, here are the sentences as mentioned below.

    I talk to you. After that I always feel better.

  • Maeve

    k. Radha,
    After talking to you I always feel better.

  • kandy

    how can we use noun+participle expression?give me some examples

  • kandy

    also tell some examples about completed and not completed actions in noun+participle expressions

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