I just have read an article of gerund on Grammar girl and started to wonder. Can transitive verbs always have gerund form followed by "of objective" ?

As shown on the site,

they defuse the bomb.

.... their defusing of the bomb....

Defuse can be written in both style.

Then, can the others like drink, put, demonstrate, and etc be used that way?

They drink the Coke.

... their drinking of the Coke...

  • Please include a link to the source in your question. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 2:55
  • In your second example, the definite article coupled with the lack of capitalisation makes coke appear to refer to a type of solid fuel. Instead, try they drink Coke -> their drinking of Coke.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 3:56
  • The sentence transformation you suggest seems to be valid in general, but change the leading the to their. (they [verb] the [noun] -> their [gerund] of the [noun])
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 3:58
  • (And to all those sniggering, yes, I am aware of Calvin and Hobbs :P)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 4:00
  • This is an excellent question on an interesting topic, and deserves more upvotes. Neal Whitman (who wrote that GGirl piece) says here: It seems that linking verbs that take an NP complement don’t work as nominalizations. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


Aside from being correct per the formal/technical rules of verbs and sentence construction, part of good writing is simply to consider how words/phrases/sentences "sound" when read (either aloud or silently). Hence, the subject matter and context of a sentence (especially if it is part of a larger composition) also should be considered.

For example, it sounds very stilted to say "the drinking of the Coke," when referring to something as routine or mundane as ingesting soda pop. But it may sound perfectly fine to say "the partaking of the Host" when describing the Eucharist ritual (Holy Communion) that is routinely performed during a Catholic mass. In terms of context, I think that because the latter action itself is more stilted -- as a rite performed by an ordained priest in a religious ceremony that has endured (with some modifications) for many centuries -- the stilted language sounds less out of place or out of context.

I hope this helps explain a) how a writer can create meaning with both words AND sentence structure, and b) why just being technically correct may not always serve an author's purpose.

  • Using the way things "sound" is only effective if you're fluent (and probably if your dialect is close to standard English). Someone who isn't fluent in English might not know that "the drinking of the Coke" sounds stilted.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 14:38

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