Visiting Relatives

The fact that gerund phrases and participial phrases are derived from underlying sentences explains why a sentence like the following can have two different interpretations.

Visiting relatives can be boring.

Under one interpretation, the sentence means something like "The activity of visiting relatives can be boring." Here, visiting relatives, a gerund phrase, is the subject.

The underlying sentences are something like:

[Subject] visits relatives. That (activity) can be boring.

Under the other interpretation, the sentence means something like "Relatives who visit can be boring." Here, visiting, a participial phrase, modifies the subject, which is relatives.

The underlying sentences are something like:

Relatives visit. Relatives who visit can be boring.

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Comments to: Sara Kimball
Last updated January, 2001