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So if this stands by itself is "Trying" a gerund or a participle. So in my opinion there are two ways to go about this. It could definitely be a gerund (Trying to be happy is always good) but I want to know if it being a participle where the agent is omitted is also possible. (It would be a progressive tense be + -ing form)

Imagine something like:

Person A "What are you doing?"
Person B "(I am) trying to be funny"

as a short answer which is still sufficient in conveying the intended meaning. Maybe I am completely mistaken here and it probably doesn't even matter if it's a gerund or a participle but I like to truly understand the things I see and say so I hope someone can make sense of this.

  • Hello, may I ask if my answer proved helpful? Is there anything I missed out? – Mari-Lou A Dec 25 '16 at 8:14
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Present participles are formed from verbs, and are often used to form verb tenses or adjectives. They can be used with an auxiliary to form the present continuous tense: “We are dancing” or used as an adjective, “My daughter bought some dancing shoes”. The present participle is used to describe the type of shoes, the shoes themselves are not dancing. This type of participial is commonly called a participial adjective.

When the participle is used as a noun, it is called a gerund, e.g. “She loves dancing” and “Dancing is one of the best forms of exercise.”

Here the participle is used as the subject of a sentence, it is acting like a noun.

Trying to make head or tails of this newfangled smartphone is crazy

It implies that anyone who tries to understand how to use that smartphone will fail in the process.

The verb in the next example is in the present participle, the subject is she

She is trying to figure out a problem

For more details on the gerund and the participle see Wikipedia.

To answer your question, I want to know if it being a participle where the agent is omitted is also possible.

Person A "What are you doing?"
Person B "(I am) trying to be funny"

In this context, it's clear that the present participle is being used as a verb.

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