I always think that we can use "v-ing" to combine two phrases when two interconnected activities are going on.

For example : In sentence two, "explainig situation" and "having a hard time" is a interconnected activiy, happining at the same time. So I can combine "explaining situation" with my main clause "have trouble".

Is there some kind of special name for this usage? What is the logic behind that usage? It is like reduced adverbial clauses but I know it isn't.

1- I still have trouble expressing myself.

2- She had a hard time explaining the situation.

3- I always feel comfortable doing research there.

4- People sometimes have problems reading my writing.

  • I am not qualified to answer properly, but I am wondering if embedding or nesting captures the quality you are asking about. ( e.g. linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/29093 )
    – Yorik
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 22:42
  • Those are all gerund-nouns: Reading my writing is not easy. Doing research there is a drag. Expressing myself is always fun. etc.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 20 at 13:23

2 Answers 2


This form of "v-ing" is a present participle, used here as the head of an adjective participle phrase modifying the noun it follows.

The phrase "expressing myself" modifies "trouble," the phrase "explaining the situation" modifies "time," etc.

  • I know those topics but my examples don't seem similiar to the sentences on the page you gave. I don't know why my examples seem different to me. Commented May 20, 2019 at 15:15
  • The participle is a "verbal," meaning a form of a verb that is not actually functioning as a verb. I think you're getting stuck thinking of them as verbs, but they function here as adjectives. You're not the only one to have some confusion about the concept, at any rate. Commented May 20, 2019 at 15:54
  • I can tell participles from gerunds that's not a problem. In my mind, I think "explaining the situation" is not just modifying "time" or "reading my writing" is not just modifying "problem". I mean "explaining the situation" causes her to have a hard time or "reading my writing" causes them to have a problem. I don't know if I express myself well. But I just memorize these phrases such as : "Have trouble doing something" or "Spent time doing something" Commented May 20, 2019 at 16:15
  • You seem to be trying to distinguish between bound modifiers and free modifiers. This is not necessary in your examples: These are all participle phrases. If we “mess” with them (and produce sentences with horrible syntax) you will see that they are adjectival: 1- I still have {expressing myself trouble}. 2- She had a hard {explaining the situation time}. 3- {doing research there I} always feel comfortable. 4- People sometimes have {reading my writing problems.}
    – user81561
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 23:19

Perhaps the reason your examples feel somehow different to you is their special meaning. In all four cases, the nouns or adjectives (difficulty, trouble, problem, fun) combined with the verb express the way something is experienced by the subject, or the impact the subject perceives them to have on himself.

But I am not aware of a specific name for this sort of usage, nor can I find any grammatical difference with the "waste/spend time + present participle" structure. That is, an elliptical structure with some preposition being omitted: in, by, with, depending on the case.

  • This is a duplicate of your previous answer. Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 17:27
  • I don't think that you're using the term "auxiliary verb" as it's usually used. I don't see any auxiliary verb in any of the four example sentences. Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 18:33
  • MarcinManhattan: You are absolutely right. I used "auxiliary" incorrectly, will edit accordingly.
    – Maria A.
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 23:49

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