The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.

It uses except stand, not standing, I am bad at grammar sometimes but using except Ving here is more comfortable to me, is it acceptable to use Ving after except? If so what's the difference?

1 Answer 1


This is the ordinary use.

Parse stand and jeer as infinitives, in strict parallel with the infinitive do.

 [not] anything to        do 
                   except stand ... and jeer

You may also write this with a marked infinitive:

 [not] anything        to do 
                except to stand ... and jeer

But this is not very common; ordinarily we ellipt the second to marker, allowing the to marker on do to flow over onto stand ... and jeer.

Your version, with standing ... and jeering would set these gerunds in parallel with anything. It's formally acceptable, but non-idiomatic.

Another way of expressing this would be

 None of them does anything but stand ... and jeer

In this case stand ... and jeer is a conjunct complement to the auxiliary does.

  • In your last example, does is an auxiliary verb? It takes an object (anything).
    – Kinzle B
    Feb 13, 2016 at 14:34
  • @KinzleB In English we express a "pro-verb" (analogous to a "pro-noun") with do + nominal, so despite appearances, anything is neither a pronoun nor an object but a proverb and a non-finite complement! Feb 13, 2016 at 14:48
  • So does here is an intransitive, and anything but stand ... and jeer is a complement??
    – Kinzle B
    Feb 13, 2016 at 14:56
  • @KinzleB That's how I'd parse it, because that makes sense out of the construction; but there's plenty of room for argument. Feb 13, 2016 at 15:28
  • 1
    @EddieKal It's a bare infinitive; it takes that form because it is implicitly the complement of did. Compare "What did I do? Deliver the South!" Apr 8, 2019 at 21:17

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