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We had a great time discussing this issue

 
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 2:23 pm    Post subject: We had a great time discussing this issue Reply with quote

A student was trying to say "We had a great time to discuss this issue," and I corrected him (discussing this issue, not to discuss this issue), but upon being asked the reason and grammatical structure behind it, I was at a loss for words. Later that night, I realized this was a participial phrase, which are adjectives modifying nouns. Okay, so this would have to modify the noun we? And not time, right? --

Discussing this issue, we had a great time.

Still, it doesn't seem right to me, which is probably why participles didn't occur to me immediately. I'm probably second-guessing myself, but I want to think the phrase is somehow acting like an adverb modifying the verb. Is this possible? Does anyone see what I'm getting at, or is this truly a participle modifying we?
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1368
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to be "While discussing this issue, we had a great time."

Although on second thought, the meaning to me is slightly different, as is often the case!


Last edited by Lorikeet on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorikeet wrote:
It seems to be "While discussing this issue, we had a great time."

Although on second thought, the meaning to me is slightly different, as is often the case!


Yeah, it seems a bit of a different nuance from what I assume is the intended emphasis of the speaker. The student wants to say that they had a great time, and "discussing the issue" is how they were having a good time, which is why I think it adverbial, and not really describing any nouns, as participles would do. So what is it then?
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found this, which might explain my dilemma.

    "Although we have traditionally thought of the participle as an adjectival (and that is certainly its more common role), some participles and participial phrases clearly have an adverbial function, providing information of time, place, reason, and manner, as other adverbials do."
    (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar. Allyn and Bacon, 1998)
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Spertulo



Joined: 21 Oct 2011
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:38 am    Post subject: Abbreviations versus full-text Reply with quote

Failing to distinguish between abbreviations and full-text leads to confusion. The full text in this case is "We had a great time in discussing this issue." So, "discussing" is a gerund, and yes, "in discussing this issue" is an adverbial phrase telling HOW it is that we had a great time.
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:08 am    Post subject: Re: Abbreviations versus full-text Reply with quote

Spertulo wrote:
Failing to distinguish between abbreviations and full-text leads to confusion. The full text in this case is "We had a great time in discussing this issue." So, "discussing" is a gerund, and yes, "in discussing this issue" is an adverbial phrase telling HOW it is that we had a great time.

Welcome to the board, thanks for your input.

I've been brooding over this answer for a few days when I've found time, but I'm not convinced of its correctness. Your sentence is grammatical, though I'm not so sure it is a translation of mine, or that mine is an abbreviation, as it seems to comport well with perfectly good English syntax.

Moreover, there are other sentences that wouldn't pass this litmus test, such as "I've had experience working at government offices." That couldn't possibly translate, for example, into "I've had experience in working at government offices." But then again, neither could it be thought adverbial.

It is a nice try at an explanation, but I'm still not sure whether it is correct.
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spertula, did you find this in any references you could quote me?
Or does anyone agree or disagree with me or Spertula?
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ouyang



Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 170
Location: The Milky Way

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, the verbal phrase is an adverb of manner. Verbal phrases that form adverbs of reason always contain infinitives,
"I called him long-distance to discuss this issue".
Verbal phrases that form adverbs of manner typically contain gerunds and appear to modify the subject as adjectives,
"I hurt my back swimming".
However, they usually answer the question how and they are never defining / restrictive phrases.
"He introduced himself walking around the room".
The preposition "while" shifts the meaning of the phrase slightly to an adverb of time.
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