I had problems starting the car this morning.

I had no difficulty passing the exam.

I had no trouble finding a place to live.

We all had a good time dancing last night.

The children have a lot of fun playing together.

In the above sentences, can I take the gerund phrases (in bold) as the appositives of the previous nouns?

  • 1
    What is the definition of "appositive" in your grammar book?
    – F.E.
    Nov 12, 2014 at 2:53
  • For instance, here's one definition in a grammar usage manual (on my bookshelf): Appositive phrases are noun phrases that rename or further identify preceding nouns. -- But then that book has a "traditional grammar" type of definition for noun phrase, such that a NP can also actually be a gerund or infinitive phrase (shrugs). So, what's your grammar book say?
    – F.E.
    Nov 12, 2014 at 3:28
  • 2
    I really wonder whether "appositive" is the proper term for these gerund groups/phrases.I would see them as adverbial sentence parts (with drop of preposition/conjunction). They don't modify the precding nouns but indicate in/with/while what activity. "He was busted cheating" is a similar use of gerund and there is no preceding noun.
    – rogermue
    Nov 12, 2014 at 5:16

2 Answers 2


I had first to look up the term appositive. I think it is the same as apposition. An example for appositive/apposition is:

The beast, a big lion, was slowly approaching.

Appositions after a noun give more detailed information about the preceding noun and are usually separated with commas.


I doubt whether the gerund groups in the above posts are appositions. In the sentence "I had problems starting the car this morning" the gerund group has the function of a sub-clause such as when I was starting the car. You can shorten this sub-clause with a gerund: when starting the car - and you can drop the conjunction and only say "starting the car". In my view these gerund groups stand as adverbial sentence parts and not as appositions.

Interested by this problem I checked my two grammars (Longman, L.G. Alexander and Oxford, John Eastwood) and I was really not surprised that they don't mention the use of gerunds as adverbial sentence part at all.

  • My favorite summer activity, swimming, keeps me in shape.

  • Running in place, a seemingly pointless activity, should never be recorded on video.

I present two examples: A gerund as an appositive and a gerund phrase as an appositive.

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