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As we know, one way to construct a manner adverbial is using the -ing form of verbs after prepositions. However, it seems that the preposition with shows different behavior. To clarify what I mean, let us look at the following examples, using the similar preparation without:

You can answer me without a smile.

You can answer me without smiling.

But, the second example sentence in the following is incorrect:

You can answer me with a smile.

*You can answer me with smiling.

Regarding the similarity in the above examples, I wonder why it is ungrammatical with being followed by the -ing form of verbs in such a structure.

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    "You can answer me with smiling" could be grammatically correct if smiling is a valid answer, for example: "You can answer me with smiling to signify you want to continue" – flumperious May 14 at 15:16
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    @flumperious in that case, the idiomatic preposition would be "by": "you can answer me by smiling." – TypeIA May 14 at 15:18
  • As a counterexample, I consider this grammatical (though I can’t articulate why): “It’s never too late to fall in love with swimming.” – thehole May 15 at 23:30
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    @thehole Regarding your literally true comment, I edited this post. – Later May 16 at 14:23
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Let's use a different verb, as you could interpret the sentence to mean that the smile is the answer, as @flumperious pointed out. "Service with a smile" is an advertising slogan that has morphed into an exhortation used by mid-level managers addressing their employees.

[Perform] service without a smile
[Perform] service without smiling

In the first example we are describing a thing that the person performing the service lacks (a smile), while in the second case we are describing an action that the person performing the service is not taking (smiling).

[Perform] service with a smile
[Perform] *service with smiling

Again, the first phrase describes a thing while the second describes an action. It is not idiomatic to say someone does a thing "with + participle" (with laughing, with running, with talking on the phone, etc). Instead we use while:

[Perform] service while smiling

I am not sure why it is the case that "without" can be used for both situations while "with" can only be used for the one. It's just one of those rules that native speakers will understand by virtue of growing up with the language.

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  • Thanks for your answer. If I receive no other answer in some days, I will accept this answer, regarding its last sentence. – Later May 15 at 7:34

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