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I saw an interesting sentence due to play game;

She came to the city fleeing persecution in her home town.

If talking about only meaning, I understand the sentence. She ran away to the city for avoiding persecution from her home town. (if it's not, please fix me.)

But that verb-ing form after to + noun clause is really unfamiliar to me.

What's the name of that gerund rule? Is that even categorized? Is there some kind of omitted word behind the scene like that clause does?

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  • He came to the website asking a question.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 5 at 7:13
  • @Astralbee Yeah it's related to the sentence but my question is the way of reading (understanding) and the structure itself. Aug 5 at 7:18
  • 'She ran away to the city to avoid persecution...' Aug 5 at 7:22
  • She went to the city seeking work. Syntactically, the same kind of adverbial element. Aug 5 at 11:58

2 Answers 2

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For starters, fleeing persecution in her home town is called a gerund-participial clause. In your sentence it functions as an adjunct. Not always easy to establish which kind of adjunct. The most certain option is an adjunct of implicated reason.

She came to the city (because she was) fleeing persecution in her home town.

Note that your "to + noun phrase" does not require the gerund. It is not a structure, therefore, no need to look for a name for it. You could read your sentence as

She came to the city [in fear].

By replacing fleeing persecution in her home town with in fear, you can see how the gerund-participial clause is independent from the rest of the sentence, not required by it.

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    Indeed the "to + noun phrase" is entirely irrelevant: you could equally say "she came here fleeing persecution in her home town", or even just "she came fleeing persecution in her home town" and the "fleeing..." part would be the same structure with the same meaning.
    – psmears
    Aug 5 at 14:49
  • Gerund-participial is a surprising term for me, because gerunds and participles serve different functions notwithstanding a superficial similarity. E.g. "Fleeing the city on the weekend is one of my guilty pleasures" -- unquestionably a gerund. Aug 5 at 18:31
  • Moreover, the obvious Google search for gerund-participial clause finds several either explanations of the difference between gerunds and participles and several StackExchange pages using more or less the full term as used here. At first blush I'd infer that gerund-participial is a term more frequently encountered on this site than away from it. Is that a wrong inference? Aug 5 at 18:33
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    @CynicallyNaive This site considers the CAGEL (Cambridge Grammar of English Language) a reputable source. This book uses this term, so that explains why many users adopted it.
    – fev
    Aug 5 at 18:47
  • Interesting -- is this a US or NAm vs UK English distinction? As a native US speaker I've always seen a clear distinction taught. Gerunds act as nouns; participles act as adjectives or adverbs. I have seen cognate terms in other languages used differently. E.g. gerúndio in Portuguese seems to mean participle. Aug 5 at 18:51
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The example sentence:

She came to the city fleeing persecution in her home town.

is grammatically valid and natural, a fluent speaker might well say it.

It could be rephrased as:

[While] fleeing persecution in her home town, she came to the city.

Or the original could be considered a reduced form of:

She came to the city while fleeing persecution in her home town.

I don't know a specific name for this sort of construction. Not every sentence pattern needs to have a special name.

A few somewhat similar uses of gerunds would be:

  • She went to the club looking for a new boyfriend.
  • She rented an apartment, avoiding the cost of a mortgage.
  • She came to wrok for is, operating a HAL-9000 computer
  • She came to my office, performing an audit for the IRS.
  • She came to the Remedy Center, performing Mozart's Requiem.
  • She came to be one of the city's best known artists, inventing an entirely new genre.
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  • But this isn't a gerund, is it? It seems more like a participle -- hence you could easily substitute an adjective: "She came to the city exhausted from persecution...." Gerunds are more typically -ing used as nouns -- "Skiing is my favorite sport." Aug 5 at 18:39
  • @CynicallyNaive The Wikipedia article reads: "Traditional grammar makes a distinction within -ing forms between present participles and gerunds, a distinction that is not observed in such modern grammars as A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language and The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. " In the original sentence "fleeing" modifies "came" and thus functions adverbially. Whether you call it a gerund in that case is a matter of terminology with little effect on the grammar of the construction. Aug 5 at 19:41

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