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The ing-form as Attribute

§ 227.The ing-form in the function of attribute is found in
different constructions.

The ing-form may immediately precede its head-noun. In this
case it expresses an action which is performed by the person or
thing denoted by the head-noun (i.e. the head-noun is the subject
of the action expressed by the ing-iorm). The ing-form is always a
single word in this case, not an extended phrase. This attribute is
not lexically dependent — it may modify any noun.

e.g. There was nothing to be seen or heard, not even a barkingdog.
Passing the Comedy Theatre I happened to look up and saw

the clouds lit by the settingsun.

I reached for a cigarette with trembling hands, and lit it.
Singingpeople, arm in arm, filled the streets.

This kind of attribute is not of frequent occurrence in En-
glish. However, ing-forms appear to be quite common as at-
tributes when they are used metaphorically.

e.g. They delivered their views on the burningquestions of the day.
Arthur gave a creakinglaugh.

"Hungry," said Mrs Nenneker, in a trumpetingvoice.
Carbury cocked an inquiringeye at him.
Hewatched it with despairingincredulity.

It is characteristic of the ing-form in this function to become
adjectivized — the ing-form is devoid of the idea of action in this
case and its lexical meaning is often changed as compared with the
meaning of the corresponding verb, e.g. a charming girl means 'a
very nice girl,' an amusing story is 'an interesting, funny story,' a
promising writer
is 'a talented writer' (For adjectivization see also
"Verbs", §172).

e.g. We had a very good view of all the surroundingscenery.

A desolate loneliness settled on me — almost a frightening

In her ringingvoice, she turned to the man on her right:

"Reggie, what do you think I ought to do?"
They were preoccupied with the comingdebate.

Such adjectivized ing-forms are in common use in English. An-
other peculiar feature of the ing-form in this function is its ten-

dency to form, in combination with its head-noun, a set phrase,
e.g. the reading public, the presiding magistrate, a racing man,
working people, a fighting officer, a leading politician, revolving
doors, running water, a booking office, a publishing house, closing
time, walking shoes,

§ 228. The ing-form as attribute may closely follow its head-
noun. It also expresses an action performed by the person or thing
denoted by the head-noun (i.e. the head-noun is the subject of the
ing-iorm). But unlike the ing-form in pre-position to the noun, it
I is a more or less extended group, not a single word. This kind of
attribute is not lexically dependent — it may modify any noun.
Yet its use is structurally dependent when it serves to modify a
noun after there is (are).

e.g. There are some people comingin here now.
There is a lot of work waitingfor me to do.
"Aren't you coming to the music room?" "Not if there is any

music going on."
"There was a man hurryingdown the street in front of me.

We find the structurally dependent use of the ing-form in
coming on (in, up) when it modifies a noun which is an object of
the verb to have (to have got).

e.g. I saw at once he had an attack of malaria coming on.

Sam thinks that he ought to return home by the next boat. He

has got his exams coming on.
You've got too many things coming upto get involved in such

an affair.

This kind of attribute is used in literary as well as in spoken

Note. It is noteworthy that running in post-position to a plural noun is used in
the meaning of 'one after another', 'in succession'.

e.g. He says he has received three telegrams runningfrom them.

§ 229.In all other instances the use of the ing-form as at-
tribute in post-position is free. It is a loose attribute in this case
and, hence, may be separated from its head-noun by a pause. In all
other respects this attribute is similar to the structurally depen-

dent one: the head-noun is also the subject of the ing-form and
the ing-form is generally part of a more or less extended group.

This kind of attribute is neither lexically nor structurally de-
pendent — it can modify any noun and the noun can have differ
ent syntactic functions in the sentence.

e.g. I could hear the voices of the kids waitingfor the school bell

to ring.

They stumbled on the snow turningto icy water.
Then I picked up a booklet depictingvarious scenes of Navy

The loose character of the ing-form in this function is always
marked off by intonation, and it may also sometimes be indicated
by the use of a comma.

e.g. The wardrobe was empty, except for one dress, swingingon a

The door was opened by one of the man-servants, bearingan
envelope, addressed to me in Collingwood's bold hand.

This loose attribute is frequently used in literary style but is
not typical of spoken English.

§ 230. The ing-form in the function of attribute may be pre-
ceded by a preposition. In this case it always follows its head-
noun and is generally part of an extended phrase. The ing-form is
lexically dependent here.

In most cases the ing form is preceded by the preposition of
and the attribute acquires appositive meaning, i.e. serves to ex-
plain the meaning of its head-noun. That is why it can modify only
certain abstract nouns that admit of and sometimes even require
an explanation of their meaning. The number of nouns thus used
is quite considerable. The most commonly occurring of them are:
action, (dis)advantage, adventure, aim, appearance, art, attitude,
business, capacity, case, chance, charge, choice, (dis)comfort, com
plication, conception, consequence, consideration, consolation,
(in)convenience, cost, custom, danger, delight, difficulty, disap
pointment, disgrace, effect, emotion, enterprise, evidence, expendi
ture, expense, experience, fact, fascination, favour, fear, feeling-
gesture, gift, grief, guilt, habit, honour, hope, horror, humiliation.

idea, ignorance, illusion, impertinence, importance, impression, in-
cident, initiative, instant, intention, interest, issue, job, joke, joy,

labour, lightness, limit, lovet luck, luxury, madness, magnificence,
manner, means, medium, memory, merit, method, misery, misfor-
tune, mistake, moment, motion, movement, necessity, notion, object,
opinion, opportunity, pain, pity, pleasure, point, policy, possibility,
power, precaution, pretence, pride, privilege, process, proof, pros-
pect, purpose, question, relief, reputation, result, risk, role, routine,
rule, satisfaction, sensation, sense, shame, shock, sign, signal,
sorrow, sort, speciality, stage (=level), standard, state, success, sup-
port, surprise, symptom, talent, task, terror, thought, trick, trouble,
use, way, week, wisdom, work
and some others.

e.g. He said that he had no chance of learningthe truth.
I don't want her to make a habit of beinglate.
I have no hope of discussing it, Mr Birling.
There was no possibility of takinga walk that day.
I had the privilege of meetingyour mother and dad some

weeks ago.
The prospect of travellingwith two elderly very dull people

made me regret my hasty decision yesterday.
He admired his way of doingthings very much.
After a while I began to have a feeling of being watched.
Miss Moss gave no sign of having heardhis words.
She experienced an unreasonable feeling of having been cheated.
Her parents are terribly upset at the thought of her givingev-


The ing-form may also be preceded by the prepositions for, in,
at, about
and to. But they are by far less common than of. These
prepositions are found after a limited number of nouns which reg-
ularly require their use:

for — cause, excuse, genius, gift, grounds, motive, passion,

pretext, reason, reputation, talent;

in — advantage, belief, believer, difficulty, experience, harm,
hesitation, ingenuity, meaning, object, participation,
pleasure, point, purpose, sense, skill, use;

at — amazement, astonishment, attempt, delight, dismay, ir-
ritation, pleasure, satisfaction, shyness, surprise;
about — fantasy, obsession, scruples;
to — objection, preparation.

e.g. She had a real passion for reading detective stories.
Did he have any special reason for doing that?
There was no point in going further.
I saw no harm in asking a few questions.
He felt irritation at being disturbed.
I was making up my mind to another attempt at persuading

him to do it.
After three months I got an obsession about having a place of

my own.
Certainly I should have no objection to working with the man.

For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted
by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.

This ing-form is not restricted to any particular style and is
widely used in English.

(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 203-204, 242.)

§ 231. The ing-form may be used as an attribute in a sentence
pattern with it as a formal subject. The ing-form is lexically de-
pendent here — it is regularly used only after it is no good and it
is no use
with appositive meaning.

e.g. It's no use lamenting over things that are past and done with.
"It's no use going on like this," he said.
It's no good trying to fool yourself about love.
It's no good my saying I'm sorry for what I've done. That

would be hypocritical.
If she had made up her mind to anything it was no good our

opposing her.

Note. We also find a synonymous construction there is no use followed by an

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