I write this question intrigued by this topic.

The best and accepted answer states that "functioning relationship" means "a relationship that is working properly".

I did some research. The English corpus clearly shows that using "functioning" as an adjective is acceptable. But it is seldom used in the phrase "functioning relationship", and more often used, understandably, in phrases "functioning machine", "functioning computer"...

Anyway to get to the point, can someone explain to me why/how "functioning relationship" means "a relationship that is wroking properly", and not "a relationship that is causing function" - which would be a logical conclusion of its meaning by observing other participial adjectives (boring homework, annoying noise, thrilling experience)

(Not a duplicate because in the other topic my question is not explained. It is just stated as a fact "2+3=5".)

  • Hi @FumbleFingers "That's to say, functional can have a range of meanings (broadly, having to do with functionality), whereas functioning only ever means working [properly]." It is not explained here why functioning relaitonship means what you stated it means. As a participial adjective it would make no sense, as stated in my question. And as a gerund it's just wrong. – Random Dude Apr 6 '16 at 14:54
  • It's not always realistic to ask why a linguistic form works the way it does, but my point remains that this question would have been more appropriately addressed by posting your last sentence above as a comment / request for clarification to my answer on the original. I might for example have added a link to -al is used to form adjectives from nouns, with the meaning "relating to, of the kind of, having the form or character of. – FumbleFingers Apr 6 '16 at 15:04
  • I know that it's not always realistic, but it seems that it should be in this case. And yes I agree a comment would be more appropriate, but unfortunately I do not have the rights to leave comments, and I was really curious. Also, that link doesn't clarify the meaning of "functioning" as an adjective. Perhaps it shouldn't be used as a participial adjective, but instead as a gerund? "The machine is functioning". "The relationship that is functioning". Makes perfect sense as a gerund in a predicate nominative, but I can't find the explanation to its meaning as an adjective. – Random Dude Apr 6 '16 at 15:12
  • "The machine is functioning" isn't a gerund usage - as with "We need a functioning machine" it's a continuous aspect verb. I'll grant that "We need a calculating machine" could be a "noun adjunct" usage involving a "gerund as noun" (although it could also be interpreted as a continuous verb, in a somewhat contrived context). But "The machine is calculating" could only ever be a continuous verb form. – FumbleFingers Apr 6 '16 at 15:30
  • Actually "noun adjunct" would explain all of this. And you're right, what I put as an example is not a gerund. @FumbleFingers – Random Dude Apr 6 '16 at 15:46

Boring homework = homework that is currently boring, not homework that causes boredom

Annoying noise = noise that is currently annoying, not noise that causes annoyance

Thrilling experience = experience that is currently thrilling, not experience that causes thrills

Functioning relationship = relationship that is currently functioning, not relationship that causes function

-al means (from Google) "of the kind of, pertaining to, having the form or character of."

So functional means "having the character of functioning, i.e. working properly."

Functioning X means that X is functioning currently and right now.

It would be more appropriate to use functioning X over functional X if you are looking at X right now and see it functioning before your eyes. If you simply have heard or know indirectly that X is working properly, or believe it to work properly on its next use, then functional would be better. Though in reality this distinction is not always made and it heavily depends on the speaker/writer's point of view of things anyway.

Another perspective:

They have a functional relationship - The relationship satisifies a set of conditions that we attach a label "functional" to. For example, we can say that if two people want to be with each other, and are willing to pay their own way, then that will form a functional relationship.

They have a functioning relationship - Their relationship is currently working, but it may not be one we would attach the label "functional" to. For example, two alcoholics may argue all the time, but still decide to stay together because neither knows any better. The relationship is "working" for them two, but we probably don't want to define that as "functional" for others.

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