'prevent from willing participating' or 'prevent from willingly participating'?

For example:

His active vocabulary is rather limited, but this doesn’t prevent him from willingly participating in class activities.


You want the adverb (=willingly) and not the adjective (=willing) to modify the verb "participating".

Therefore, you should say

... willingly participating ...

Edit: What is "participating" here — a verb or a gerund (i.e., a noun)? (... as asked in comments)

It is a mistake to say a gerund is a noun simply because the clause it appears in is functionally similar to a noun phrase. - See Snailplane's in this ELL post Is this -ing form a gerund or a participle?

I don't want to take anything out of context, but here is a bit from Snailplane's answer:

Let's look at another example.

He was expelled for wantonly killing the birds.

In this example, killing is a verb form, head of the subordinate clause wantonly killing the birds. Because this clause is functionally similar to a noun phrase, some people might be tempted to call killing a noun here. But it's clearly not:

  1. Killing cannot be inflected like a noun. If we change killing to killings, the sentence becomes ungrammatical.
  2. Killing takes a direct object. Verbs do that. Nouns don't.
  3. Killing does not take a determiner. Adding the makes this sentence ungrammatical.
  4. Killing takes an adverb (wantonly) as a modifier. It does not take an adjective as a modifier.

Also see this:

A gerund is a verb in its -ING inflection that heads a verb phrase used somewhere the grammar requires a noun phrase. - See tchrist's answer in this EL&U post Is “running” a gerund or a participial adjective?

Based on a number of similar posts in ELL and EL&U, I would say no, a gerund is not a "noun" — that would be a crude and incorrect definition. Now, without getting into the details and the technical discussion on "gerunds" (which the OP doesn't ask for), I would still say the correct modifier here is "willingly" and not "willing".

You might be wondering Is a gerund always modified by an adverb then? No.

If you modify a gerund "from the outside", you treat it as a noun, and so you use an adjective ...

But you can also modify a gerund from within the gerundial construction, where it functions as a verb, so you use an adverb:

She left by quickly crossing the street and hailing a cab.
I don't like speaking softly when there is no need.

See Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica's answer in this EL&U post Should I modify a gerund using an adjective or an adverb?

  • Isn't "participating" here a gerund, that is, a noun rather than a verb?
    – brilliant
    Jun 20 '20 at 6:30
  • @brilliant Does the edit help? If not, then maybe wait and see if someone else provides a better explanation.
    – AIQ
    Jun 20 '20 at 7:32
  • I've through all your edits and the links in them. All in all, the answer is helpful, except it is lacking in some official resources defining exactly what a gerund is - whether it is a noun, a verb, or a separate part of speech on its own. Because of that, all four criteria in your answer (in the example with "killing") become kind of suspended in the air. Take, for example, the second criterion stating that nouns don't take a direct object. One could easily argue there that, in fact, nouns do take direct objects -- that is, when they are gerunds.
    – brilliant
    Jun 23 '20 at 7:04

"Willingly" works, regardless of whether "participating" is a gerund or a participle. 

AIQ is right.  Calling a gerund a noun is an oversimplification.  A gerund has much in common with a noun -- it is a nominative construction; it is a representation of a referent; it constitutes a suitable subject or object.

The traditional view was that a gerund is a part of speech unto itself.  In fact, each of the non-finite forms was treated as a separate part of speech, distinct from and supplemental to The Big Eight.  They weren't called verbs, they were called verbals.  If you wanted to pass an American English class in the 70s or 80s, that was one jagged little pill that you had to swallow.

One more modern view is that a gerund is simply a verb.  Wherever it occurs, it creates a clause, it takes a subject, and it can license arguments and accept adjuncts.  It's just one standard verb form out of many, lacking tense but otherwise closely resembling a finite verb form.  As far as I can tell, that view doesn't even allow you to recognize the difference between gerund and present participle.  The two of those are just "that one verb form with an -ing ending".

Neither view is right.

The traditional view did make it easy enough to describe how different the non-finite forms are from the finite.  The modern view makes it easy enough to recognize that a verb form still represents a verb.  There's an even older view that holds more water than these two: It's a verb, but as a non-finite verb it does not bind to a subject.  It's a verb that produces a mere phrase rather than a predicate.

Because it's a verb (or because of one of the verb-like rules that the gerund part of speech has, if that's the tradition you follow) it accepts adjuncts.  An adverb like "willingly" attaches to it quite nicely.

I'm not quite sure whether the -ing form in "from willingly participating" is a gerund.  I can't see how to test whether the argument of this preposition is strictly attributive or strictly nominative.  It might not be either.  Either way (or, even if neither way, ha ha) "willingly" works.

It is easy enough to invent an example of "participating" that must be a gerund:

His limited vocabulary doesn't affect his willingly participating in class.

Here, we can be certain (as long as we're not so modern that we imagine there to be no difference) that "participating" is a gerund.  The verb "affect" requires a direct object, and a mere participle doesn't satisfy that role.  The genitive "his" wants something noun-like to modify.  Here, we can see AIQ's final point clearly illustrated.  We have "willingly" as an adjunct, modifying the gerund from within the phrase that it forms.  We have "his" as a genitive, modifying the nominative construction.  We're looking at the reason for the traditional "like a verb on the inside, like a noun on the outside" description.

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