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Notes for
Dealing with Gerunds with Complements
Instructional Overhead

Ex # 1 AK G3 L2.2.4 Gerunds as OP
Ex # 2 AK G4 "

     The first thing we should note is that the instructional material for students does not refer to "gerunds" and "complements"; instead it simply refers to "Unusual Prepositional Phrases." Telling the students that these are gerunds is fine; expecting them to remember that is a different question, especially when some of the students will still be struggling with basic prepositions and prepositional phrases.
     Prepositional phrases that have gerunds as complements are relatively rare, and those that have gerunds that themselves have complements (as in "Do you think Tinker Bell was grateful to Wendy {for raising her arm}?) are even rarer. In analyzing real, randomly selected texts, however, students will run across them, and the purpose of this instruction is primarily to alleviate some of the students' confusion. We can't teach everything all at once, and when students get to gerunds (KISS Level Four), these phrases will become much clearer.
     The "official" title of this page, by the way, should be "Dealing with Gerunds That Have Complements or Modifiers." Consider the sentence:

They were talking about going home.
"Home" is a noun used as an adverb, but most students will probably analyze the prepositional phrase as
They were talking {about going home}.
That is, in fact, my preference for an analysis, but I would also accept "about going" as the prepositional phrase. These phrases, statistically speaking, are rare, and there is little sense in getting picky about them with students who may have problems with simple prepositional phrases.
     There are often no single "correct" answers for analyzing these phrases. Indeed, in working with students who were just beginning with prepositional phrases, I would ignore whatever they did with these phrases (unless they got them "right," in which case I would offer praise for their thoughtfulness.) Once students do begin to get them, I usually accept more than one answer. Consider, for example, the following sentence from Peter Pan:
Michael without knowing how to float was floating. 
Some students will mark this as
Michael {without knowing} how to float was floating. 
A few may respond with
Michael {without knowing how} to float was floating. 
Those who are looking for the answer to "without knowing what?" will respond with
Michael {without knowing how to float) was floating. 
The second response is the weakest, but I would suggest that all three should be considered as correct. (If grammarians can disagree, and they do, then why can't students?)
     Finally, we should probably note that many of these phrases themselves involve embedded phrases. Consider the following, also from Peter Pan:
Nevertheless we have proof that they secretly watched the interlopers,
and were not {above taking an idea} {from them}.
In this case, the phrase "from them" modifies "taking," and thus could be seen as part of the "above taking an idea" phrase. The point here is simply that there are several things about gerunds as objects of prepositions that can make them confusing for students. 
     A British linguist once commented on the KISS Approach and claimed that we cannot teach prepositional phrases to third graders because prepositional phrases are too complicated. That is true if one wants to focus on all the possible complications. (And that is what linguists usually do.) Another complication, by the way, is that some prepositional phrases have clauses as their object -- "They were talking {about where they should go}."  But if we take the position that we cannot teach prepositional phrases without covering all the complications, where do we start? If you have looked at several of the KISS analysis keys, you have seen that the vast majority of prepositional phrases are very simple. To begin, that is what we should focus on. We can introduce students to some of the complications, such as gerunds as objects without expecting students to master them.