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I don't like people hurting or killing others.

Does it mean "I don't like people who are hurting or killing others."? Or "people hurting or killing others." is about actions rather than a Relative Clause? I'm confused.

  • The "parsing" is ambiguous. Syntactically, you could be asserting that what you don't like is specifically those people who are doing that (or might do so, in some hypothetical situation). OR you might be asserting that what you don't like is the entire situation (real or hypothetical) involving some people being hurt or killed by others. But semantically it doesn't make any difference - in practice they both net down to the same meaning anyway. – FumbleFingers Feb 11 at 18:24
  • It's not a relative construction. "Hurting or killing others" is a gerund-participial clause serving as complement of "like". "People" is the syntactic object of "like", and the semantic (understood) subject of "hurting or killing". – BillJ Feb 11 at 18:24
  • ...but consider a similar construction: I don't like the Germans running the EU. It does make a difference how you parse that one - I could be saying I don't like the fact that Germans ("collectively", equivalent to Germany) run the EU, or that I don't like the / those specific Germans who are running the EU. – FumbleFingers Feb 11 at 18:33
  • @BillJ I thought "people hurting or killing others." was a reduced relative clause at first. Now I understand what you are trying to say, "people hurting or killing others" is a gerund-participial clause! – Relative Clauses vs Participle Feb 11 at 18:42
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If you

don't like people hurting or killing others

the thing you don't like is "people hurting or killing others" - that is, a gerund phrase. It is the action of people being hurt or killed by others that is disliked (yes, the words stay like that despite subject and object switching for passive; that's because both are really people, but one would often switch the second out for others to avoid repetition).

If you

don't like people who are hurting and killing others

then you dislike the people who are committing that act, right now. Once they stop, you may stop disliking them. That's because of the progressive aspect. On the other hand, if you

don't like people who hurt and kill others

then you dislike people who hurt and kill others in general, it doesn't matter whether they are currently doing it or not.

  • So "I don't like people hurting or killing others." means the same as your first paragraph "the thing you don't like is "people hurting or killing others" - that is, a gerund phrase........."? – Relative Clauses vs Participle Feb 11 at 18:37
  • Yes, it means that the thing you don't like is the "hurting or killing". – SamBC Feb 11 at 18:44

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