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According to engVid 'acknowledge' is always followed by a gerund. However, these examples below are from highly reputed dictionaries.

  1. It is generally acknowledged to be true.
  2. She is usually acknowledged to be one of our best artists.

I'm confused. Is it correct to use either to+verb and gerund after 'acknowledge'? Would it be incorrect to write 'She is usually acknowledged being one of our best artists' ?

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  • engVid doesn't say 'acknowledge is always followed by a gerund', only that it can be. Jul 3 at 13:47
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    You can only acknowledge doing something that you yourself have done, so it is not correct to say She is acknowledged being one of our best artists. Jul 3 at 14:28
  • @MichaelHarvey Yes it does. Directly from the source: 'There are certain verbs that can only be followed by one or the other, and these verbs must be memorized. Many of these verbs are listed below' and then acknowledge is in the table for 'Common verbs followed by a gerund.' Jul 4 at 8:09
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    @orhantorun The verbs do have to be memorised, but engVid omits to mention that verbs like "acknowledge" can in fact take a to-infinitival complement in the complex catenative construction: He acknowledges it to have been a mistake.
    – BillJ
    Jul 4 at 8:28

2 Answers 2

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Obviously, your source is misleading. I do not say wrong, but “circumstances alter cases.”

Your source is talking about a gerund, which is a participle used as a noun.

The governor acknowledged pardoning his former wife, but …

I agree that

The governor acknowledged to pardon his wife, but …

is not idiomatic.

Present participles are tricky. They can be used as the lexically significant part of a compound verb, as an adjective, or as a noun.

Your source was focused on only the use of a participle as a stand-alone gerund

The female governor barely acknowledged him as lieutenant governor

can also be rendered idiomatically as

The female governor barely acknowledged him to be lieutenant governor

or

The female governor barely acknowledged him being lieutenant governor

or

The female governor barely acknowledged his being lieutenant governor

The point is that the object of the verb is now a noun phrase introduced by a pronoun, not a bare gerund. Indeed, in the second example, “being” is not even a gerund because the pronoun is not possessive.

You got a piece of advice that is correct in the narrow case of a gerund acting as the introduction of a noun phrase or a gerund standing alone, but is incorrect more generally.

EDIT In response to the comment below by the original poster, one common way to define participle is

a form of a verb used as an adjective.

This definition implies that there is no name to analyze “cooking” grammatically in this sentence.

He was cooking supper when she got home.

Clearly “cooking” in this example is not an adjective.

A common way to define “gerund” is

a form of a verb used as a noun

These common definitions may be perfect definitions in linguistics generally, but they are confusing when applied to English grammar because the same form based on a verb may be used as any one of three parts of speech. Is the word “cooking” to be designated as the nameless part of a compound verb or as a participle or as a gerund? You cannot tell if you define a participle as a form derived from a verb. Here is a definition that applies to English.

In modern English, a “participle” means one of two inflected forms of a verb, one designated “present” and the other designated as “perfect” or “passive.” Each form may be used as part of a compound verb or as an adjective. In addition, the present participle may be used as a noun. When used as a noun, a participle is also known as a “gerund.”

In short, it is more useful to define a participle in English as an inflected form of a verb that can be used as multiple parts of speech rather than as an adjective. Separate form and function.

I said at the beginning of my answer that your source was misleading rather than wrong. I’d add that the definition of “participle” that you are using is not as helpful as it could be.

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  • Thank you! But, since the definition of 'gerund' is a 'verb form which functions as a noun, ending in -ing' (Oxford) and of participle is 'a word formed from a verb and used as an adjective' (Oxford); why did you define gerund as a 'participle used as a noun' ? Jul 4 at 8:25
  • See edit to my answer. Jul 4 at 16:18
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So we're talking here about the catenative construction, where the catenative verb "acknowledge" has a non-finite clause as its complement.

The admissibilty of the non-finite clause depends on the type of catenative complement: to-infinitival clauses occur only in the complex type, gerund-participials only in the simple type. Reversing the complementation results in a loss of grammaticality, so we have [1] and [2] but not [3]:

[1] He acknowledges it to have been a mistake. ........ [complex]

[2] He acknowledges making a mistake. ........................[simple]

[3] *He acknowledges to have made a mistake. ..........[hybrid - ungrammatical]

(Note: the complex catenative construction has an intervening NP between the matrix and dependent verbs, while the simple construction never does).

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  • To be clear, I am referring here only to the verb "acknowledge". With other verbs, different considerations apply.
    – BillJ
    Jul 4 at 9:12

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