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this is my first time asking a question in ELL, so I am sorry if I broke any rules.

In the following sentence, is tapping a gerund or a participle?

His tapping finger on the change mat speeded up a little when Mack came in.

I thought it was a participle and that finger was the subject of the sentence, but my teacher marked it wrong. I could also see how tapping could be the subject and act as a gerund. Could anyone please enlighten me? :)

  • As a learner: I think whatever sped up is the subject. – Cardinal May 21 '19 at 4:02
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    As far as I can tell, you are correct—and your teacher is wrong. Had it been a gerund, then it would have meant it was a finger for tapping (like a ring finger)—not a finger that is, itself, performing an action. But it's clear that it is a finger that is, itself, performing an action because it's later describing as speeding up. (Unlike a swimming pool which is a pool for swimming, and not a pool that is actually swimming.) However, tapping, on its own, can never be the subject of this sentence. – Jason Bassford May 21 '19 at 4:48
  • The subject is the whole NP "His tapping finger on the change mat", in which "tapping" is a gerund-participle verb serving as a complement of "finger". – BillJ May 21 '19 at 12:58

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