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What is a Prepositional Gerund Phrase?

A PREPOSITIONAL GERUND PHRASE is that sort of gerund phraseOpens in new window usually preceded by a prepositionOpens in new window.

In contrast to a gerundial phraseOpens in new window, which functions as a noun and noun only; the PREPOSITIONAL GERUND PHRASE has the capacity to function as a nounOpens in new window, and a modifying word—which in this case, an adjectiveOpens in new window or an adverbOpens in new window.

Consider the following examples:
  • The money for spending on repairs was soon used up.
    (= which was to be spent on repairs)
  • After listening to the news, we sat down to dinner.
    (= after we had listened to the news)

A Prepositional gerundial phrase usually does the work of an adjective, as in the first sentence above, or an adverb as in the second. Notice carefully the clauses in brackets replacing the phrases.

A PREPOSITIONAL GERUND PHRASE may very often begin with a single–word preposition like “for,” “after,” “on,” “by,” etc., or a prepositional phraseOpens in new window like “in spite of,” “on account of,” “for the purpose of,” etc., followed by a gerundial phrase.

Prepositional gerund phrases serving the function of adverbs can express all adverbial relationships except place.

Examples include:
  • On reaching his destination (when/after he had reached his destination), he sent a telegram to his parents.

    Adverbial relationship of time

  • He went to work in spite of his being very ill (although he was very ill).

    Adverbial relationship of concession

  • They rejected his application for admission on account of his having falsified his age (because he had falsified his age).

    Adverbial relationship of reason

  • He supplemented his regular income by working part–time in a shop (as a part–time shop assistant).

    Adverbial relationship of manner

Position of Gerundial Phrases and Prepositional Gerund Phrases

  • A Gerund phrase occurs wherever a noun does, so its position in the scheme of the sentence is fixed like that of the noun.
  • A prepositional gerund phrase, on the other hand, is relatively free but its position will depend on the function it does in the sentence. If it functions as an adverb, it may occur in the initial or final position.
Consider the following sentences:
  • After listening to the news, we sat down to dinner.
  • We sat down to dinner after listening to the news.

If we put the prepositional gerund phrase at the beginning, we must pay attention to make sure there is no dangling modifier. For instance:

We must not say,
  • On entering the house, strange sounds were heard by us.
But say instead:
  • On entering the house, we heard strange sounds.

An adverbial prepositional gerund phrase modifying a predicate adjective will come immediately after the adjective, as:

  • Ali was embarrassed at hearing himself praised so effusively in public.

If the prepositional gerund phrase performs an adjectival function, it will occur immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies:

  • The time for making excuses is past; we want results.

In a case where the phrase performs a nominal function, it takes its place immediately after the main verb:

  • She insisted on attending the function despite her illness.

Certain verbs like “insist,” “agree,” “care,” “caution,” “decide,” “forget,” “plan,” “warn” retain the capacity to take a prepositional gerund phrase after them:

  • Did you finally agree on sharing the profits between yourselves?
  • The two batches of students decided on going to the same place for their picnic.
  • That was not a wise thing to do. I would have cautioned them against doing that if I had known.
  • You had better forget about recovering your dues from your customers.
  • Given the choice of a free holiday abroad, would you caree about going to Timbuctoo?
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  • References
    • No Grammar Tears 2: Marthus-Adden Zimboiant Infinitive Phrases (Pg 339-343) Marthus-Adden Zimboiant

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