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What is 'writing' in these two sentences, a gerund or present participle (adjective): 1) "This is my writing table" and 2) "I bought a writing table"?

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  • "Writing" is best classified as a verb phrase functioning as an attributive modifier, where it has a purposive meaning: "table for writing". Note that modern grammar does not distinguish gerunds and present participials, simply calling both ing forms 'gerund-participials'.
    – BillJ
    Nov 27 '21 at 17:37
  • @FumbleFingersThanks for sharing the link. It was helpful.
    – Airforce
    Nov 27 '21 at 18:24
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A writing table is a table for the purpose of writing on, not a table that is in the act of writing. Writing here is a gerund used as an adjective.

https://medium.com/@engtuto1/can-gerunds-be-also-used-as-adjectives-89e5698411f3

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  • "Writing" fails all the usual tests for adjectivehood. It's actually a verb, where it has a purposive meaning: "table for writing".
    – BillJ
    Nov 27 '21 at 17:20
  • Does that mean that the website is wrong? Nov 27 '21 at 18:08
  • Yes, it's wrong. Here are two tests: (1) "writing" can't be modified by "very"; (2) "Writing" can’t occur as complement to complex-intransitive verbs like “become” (we can’t say *”It became became quite writing”) or complex-transitive verbs like “find” (we can’t say *”I found it quite writing). See my answer.
    – BillJ
    Nov 27 '21 at 18:54
  • @BillJ please always try make reference to your answer. Your answers seem to be misleading. You may like to explore a bit more in any reputed grammar book. Thanks for your time.
    – Airforce
    Nov 27 '21 at 19:13
  • @KateBunting Finally someone has made my day, sharing the link. The best explanation. Much appreciated.
    – Airforce
    Nov 27 '21 at 20:11
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This is my writing table.

I bought a writing table.

"Writing" is best classified as a verb phrase functioning as an attributive modifier.

It's clearly not a noun, and it fails the usual tests for adjectivehood. For example, it can't be modified by "very". And it can't occur as complement to complex-intransitive verbs like "become" (we can’t say *"It became became quite writing") or complex-transitive verbs like "find" (we can’t say *"I found it quite writing").

Compare this with, say "entertaining", which passes all the tests: "I found the show very entertaining" / "It became quite entertaining" / "I found it quite entertaining".

The range of expressions that can occur as pre-head modifier to a noun is very large and varied: we don't want to call them all adjectives. "Entertaining" has the properties of indisputable adjectives and hence must belong in that class, but others like "writing" don't have the distinctive properties of adjectives, and hence are best regarded as verbs.

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