We know the title of the song like 'killing me softly with his song' and 'staying alive'. In these titles of the songs, is the 'ing' gerund or participial construction? I asked this question before but somebody said that it is gerund, other said that it's participial construction? Which is right answer?


1 Answer 1


For an -ing form (known, along with infinitives and past participles, as a non-finite as opposed to tensed or conjugated verbs) to be properly classified as a gerund (nominal) or as a present participle (adjectival, adverbial, or a component of progressive tenses), more context will be needed.

We can imagine that "killing me softly with his song" is short for "He is killing me softly with his song," so -- being part of the verb in the present progressive "is killing" -- "killing" would be a present participle.

Let's see how the same -ing form can function otherwise:

  • Killing me softly with his song was as nice way of seducing me. (In this case, "Killing..." is the subject and, being nominal, it is a gerund)
  • He seduced me killing me softly with his song. (In this case, "killing..." is a present participle because it indicates the manner in which "he" seduced "me", and it is a typically adverbial function to express the manner, time, place and other circumstances in which an action is performed).
  • The man killing me softly with his song is a well-known singer. (In this case, "killing..." is adjectival, as it describes the noun "man", and the -ing is a present participle.)

As for "Staying alive", we actually find the -ing form being used as part of the present progressive of "stay" (...We're staying alive) within the song itself, and the non-finite is therefore a present participle.

If we think of a sentence like "Staying alive is no easy task," where "staying alive" is the subject, the -ing form is a gerund because it fulfills a nominal function.

  • After the thorough edition I made of my own post, if this works properly whoever gave me a downvote should take it back.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 23:24
  • The edit did the trick. Whoever it was, thank you.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 2:29

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