In this NPR news excerpt, it says:

At one point, Shepard has director Ishiro Honda explain why the vanquishing of Godzilla feels so sad, and his words sum up brilliantly what gives Godzilla its strange power.

Does the vanquishing of Godzilla mean Godzilla wins in some sense? Since "A vanquished B" means "A beat B" in some sense.

But somehow I think in the original excerpt, It is more reasonable that it means the fact that Godzilla is beaten makes us sad. Since we have some compassion toward him.

What does the vanquishing of Godzilla really mean?

  • 1
    According to Macmillan, of (sense 3) is used for "saying who or what does something". a) used after nouns that refer to actions for saying who or what does the action; b) used after nouns that refer to actions for saying who or what is affected by the action. I think this one has the sense of 3b. – Damkerng T. May 4 '14 at 0:45

It means the act of vanquishing Godzilla, so Godzilla loses.

When you convert a full clause like someone vanquished Godzilla into a gerund (the -ing form here), the object (Godzilla) becomes a prepositional object with of. That is what happened here:

someone vanquises Godzilla → the vanquishing of Godzilla

However, there are other constituents that can be converted into an of phrase with a gerund:

Christ comes → the coming of Christ

your mother yells → the yelling of your mother

Here you can see that the subject is also turned into an of phrase if you turn the verb into a gerund.

So, when you see a gerund with of, how do you know what kind of semantic function the of phrase has? The answer is that you cannot know, except based on context, e.g., the meaning of the verb, the kind of noun after of (is it a person?), the situation, the rest of the story, etc.

With verbs that can take a direct object in a full clause, like vanquish, the converted of phrase will usually be from a direct object, as in the vanquishing of Godzilla; but there is no guarantee.

  • To be clear, Does "The hitting of John makes me angry" have both possibility? (John hits something or something hits John.) – CYC May 4 '14 at 3:16
  • @CYC: Yes, both interpretations are possible. But it is probably more likely to mean that something hits John, because the verb can have a direct object, just like vanquish. – Cerberus May 4 '14 at 4:55

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