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Everybody likes eating.

What is eating in this sentence? Is it object or the part of the verb likes?

And what if I would change the sentence:

Everybody likes eating the food.

The food is object and eating?

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    I agree with SovereignSun's answer below. Some people might say it's a catenative complement, but I don't analyze it that way since we do not normally 'chain' this verb. We do not normally say something like "I like eating to do something to do something...". Sep 24, 2017 at 14:23
  • I've spoken English perfectly well for many decades, and have never needed to know whether eating in your first example is a "noun" or not. You might think it's a noun because we can easily replace it with another work that's more obviously a noun, such as Everyone likes chocolate. But since we can also modify it with an adverb, such as John likes eating quickly, it's obviously at least a bit "verby". Just say eating and eating chocolate are both complements. Sep 24, 2017 at 14:24
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    To be an object, "eating" would have to be a noun. Your example is strictly speaking ambiguous, though verb preferred ("Everybody likes to eat"). Noun interpretation can be forced by adjectival premodification, as in "healthy eating".
    – BillJ
    Sep 24, 2017 at 14:50
  • And this would be ungrammatical: Everybody likes healthy eating the food.
    – TimR
    Sep 24, 2017 at 15:04
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    @user178049 You also said in your first comment that "we do not normally 'chain' this verb". But that fails to take account of examples such as "I like going to the theatre" (gerund-participial) and "I like to stay home at weekends" (infinitival). Examples like these are very common.
    – BillJ
    Sep 24, 2017 at 17:55

2 Answers 2

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"Eating" is the direct object in the sentence. It is a gerund. If you change the sentence to "Everybody likes eating the food" then "eating the food" is a gerund phrase and is the direct object.

A gerund always ends in -ing and is used as a noun. Eating is fun.

The gerund can be a subject (Eating is fun.); a direct object (I like eating.); a predicate nominative (A fun time is eating.); an appositive (A fun time, eating, takes much time.); an indirect object (I give eating too much time.); or an object of a preposition (I give much time to eating.) (Daily Grammar)

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user230
    Sep 24, 2017 at 17:25
  • Frankly, after all of this, Im confused even more than before. I would like to mark this answer as the best, but Im confused with that catenative thing.
    – trenccan
    Sep 24, 2017 at 17:57
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    @trenccan: You can safely call it an object. Look at rjpond's comment below. And here's a quote from the known figure in grammar, Michael Swan: [like is] not used without an object. Practical English Usage fourth edition, entry 514.2
    – Mori
    Sep 24, 2017 at 18:13
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    Yes! It's a to-infinitive and works as the direct object of the verb likes.
    – Mori
    Sep 24, 2017 at 18:20
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    No @trenccan. "To eat" is not direct object, but complement of the verb "likes". Non-finite clauses as used here are not at all like direct objects, which is why we analyse them as catenative complement clauses.
    – BillJ
    Sep 25, 2017 at 7:38
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Everybody likes eating.

Eating is the object of the verb likes.


Everybody likes eating the food.

Eating the food is the object of the verb likes. The food is the object of the gerund eating. The object of a gerund is also called the gerund complement.

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  • No, Mori, "Eating the food" is not the object of "likes". It is a non-finite clause functioning as catenative complement of "likes".
    – BillJ
    Sep 24, 2017 at 16:35
  • Then the Longman dictionary is wrong where it labels like as a transitive verb, and what is says about transitive verbs, right?
    – Mori
    Sep 24, 2017 at 16:40
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    The point I am making is that "like" can be transitive ("I like healthy eating") and catenative ("I like eating Chinese food").
    – BillJ
    Sep 24, 2017 at 16:44
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    As a matter of fact, this sort of complement is regarded by some grammarians as the object (see jlawler's www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/aue/complmnt.html ). BillJ takes his terminology from Huddleston & Pullum's Cambridge Grammar (which, to be fair, is a very interesting book).
    – rjpond
    Sep 24, 2017 at 16:49
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    Please remember everyone, that rule #1 on Stack Exchange is Be Nice. There is a useful discussion to be had, but we can't have it here if we aren't going to be nice about it.
    – user230
    Sep 24, 2017 at 17:25

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