Participles Fused and Otherwise
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.
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:
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