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I ran into this sentence in Complete IELTS book.

Some students may be critical of others who they perceive as doing nothing but study.

I haven't seen this structure before. Could you explain the grammar? If I was the writer myself, I would write: They perceive as students who merely study and don't do anything else. But using a verb+ing right after 'perceive as' sounds a bit unfamiliar and strange for me.

Please if it is a common type of usage, add more examples and walk me through the procedure.

  • who is a relative pronoun: you can read more about sentences using relative pronouns here. learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/pronouns/… If that doesn't answer your question, please edit your question to explain which specific part of the sentence you are confused about.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 13:05
  • I am not a native speaker, but the sentence will sound correct for me if "as" is omitted. the gerund is used being the second verb. Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:38
  • Just to clarify, is your question about the gerund following the "perceived as", so you are referring to the doing rather than the studying? Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 16:41

3 Answers 3


I see nothing wrong with "... nothing but study." In fact "studying" would sound peculiar. (I am British).

I have not come across the "parallel structure" idea. Does that mean one would say "He does nothing but studies" ? That may be "right" but sounds wrong to me.

  • I believe the ing that the OP refers to what follows directly after the perceive as, so they are referring to the doing rather than studying. However, the question isn't particularly clear. I too am British and agree that doing nothing but study sounds better [more natural] than doing nothing but studying, although they both sound correct. Also, I've not heard of the Parallel Structure either. Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 16:36
  • Isn't it an abbreviation of " Doing nothing but doing study"? Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:03

To address your concern over the use of the gerund after the "perceived as", yes, it is perfectly correct. Here are some more examples:

He was fired, because he was perceived as wasting company time

He was fired, because he was perceived as having wasted company time

GMOs are generally perceived as being harmful to the environment

From Young Adult Fiction - Macaulay Culkin on his first novel, Michael Jackson, and the self-consciousness of fame:

...he was most frustrated to be perceived as conforming to type.

Another good example comes from examples with "come across as" and "be perceived as", in the following comment:

I find no problem with the sentences grammatically. It may be colloquial for me but the statement, "The guys were perceived as rough." doesn't sound quite right but is grammatically correct and would most certainly get your point across in the Midwest United States.

"The guys were perceived as being rough." may suit better but it could just be a matter of my english dialect.

The commenter has a point, and it may be down to dialect. So, note that perceived as can be followed by an adjective, but it sounds better if [perceived as] being + adjective is used instead.

Also that last link has some other good examples of perceived as being followed by a noun:

We do not want to be perceived as lunatics.

  • Isn't it an abbreviation of " Doing nothing but doing study"? Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:08
  • @YazdanSamieiPoor - An abbreviation? Is *what *an abbreviation? Sorry, I don't understand. An abbreviation is a shorter version of something else, so "being perceived as doing nothing but study" is certainly not an abbreviation of "doing nothing but study". Please clarify your question :-) Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:02
  • sorry man if I'm using wrong words. I mean that possibly the basic form of the sentence is "Doing nothing but doing study" which has been cut to "doing nothing but study". Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 14:17

I think the sentence is incorrect, and your misgivings about it are well-founded. It should be:

Some students may be critical of others {who,whom,} they perceive as doing nothing but studying.

in order to preserve parallel structure. By contrast, you might say:

I think you do nothing but study.

Again, this preserves parallel structure.

As a side issue, in the sentence you mentioned, I would either write "whom" or omit the relative pronoun entirely.

Is it possible that the book was written by a non-native speaker, or someone who was not being very careful?

UPDATE: It occurs to me that perhaps "study" is meant as a noun (a mass noun), in which case the sentence is grammatically correct. In that case, "study" is parallel to "nothing", which is a pronoun (and hence acts like a noun). The sentence would then have the same kind of structure as "These days, I am seeing no one but my family", which is a valid sentence.

  • Thank you.The passage is titled in "Austrailian culture and culture shock", written by "Anna Jones" and "Xuan Quach". I've attached an image of the sentence in the main question. Please take a look. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 5:44
  • I would also replace the "as" with "to be." Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 16:09
  • Isn't it an abbreviation of " Doing nothing but doing study"? Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:10
  • @YazdanSamieiPoor, I suppose that "study" could be serving as a noun (a mass noun) here, which is a possibility I hadn't considered before. In that case, the sentence is not so strange. But your suggestion that "doing nothing but doing study" is a basic form, and "doing nothing but study" is an abbreviated form of it, does not reflect the way the language works. No one would say "I do nothing these days but do religion" or "I do nothing these days but do eat", for instance.
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 14:56

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