A fused participle comes about when a noun or pronoun preceding a gerund is not used in the possessive form. A verb that ends in –ing may function as either a noun called a gerund (which is a form of a verb acting as a noun), or an adjective called a present participle. The noun or pronoun that precedes a gerund must be in the possessive form. When the present participle plays the role of an adjective, it modifies a noun or pronoun, in which case a possessive is not used for the noun or pronoun.
Possessive noun and participle acting as gerund
The examples here show the noun in the possessive form followed by a present participle acting as a noun called gerund and not by an adjective.
No: The new teacher teaching of grammar is proving effective. (Fused participle)
Yes: The new teacher’s teaching of grammar is proving effective. (Unfused participle)
(In the first example, the participle teaching is a gerund and is fused with the noun teacher. This makes it a fused participle. To correct it, the noun teacher is made into a possessive, which is done in the second example. The subject is teaching, and teacher’s is a possessive adjective.)
No: They hate my pet owl hooting in the night.
Yes: They hate my pet owl's hooting in the night.
(It is meant to show here that they don’t hate the owl; they hate the hooting. If they hate the owl for hooting in the night, the sentence should be a correct one.)
Possessive noun/pronoun and participle acting as adjective.
A possessive is not used for a noun or pronoun if the participle is an adjective modifying the noun or pronoun.
We dislike his bragging about his computer skills.
- We dislike Tom bragging about his computer skills.
(In the first example, the present participle bragging is the direct object acting as a gerund. In the second example, the direct object is Tom while the present participle bragging acts as an adjective introducing the adjectival phrase bragging about his computer skills to modify the noun Tom. The difference between the two sentences is that the first one says we dislike the bragging, while the second sentence says we dislike the person, Tom. A gerund must follow a possessive noun or a possessive pronoun as shown in the first example.)
Sue watched a snake’s slithering through the garden.
Sue watched a snake slithering through the garden.
(The sentence says Sue watched the snake, not the slithering. The participle slithering introduces an adjectival phrase slithering through the garden that modifies the direct object snake.)
Sometimes, a fused sentence is best left alone. Here, a noun doesn’t have to be in the possessive form when it is followed by a present participle acting as a noun.
- No: He thought he heard his late grandmother’s yelling his name.
- Yes: He thought he heard his late grandmother yelling his name.
- No: She found his sleeping on a park bench.
- Yes: She found him sleeping on a park bench.
- No: A crowd gathered to watch a dozen UFOs’ streaking across the sky.
- Yes: A crowd gathered to watch a dozen UFOs streaking across the sky.
- No: I was approached by a stranger’s babbling in an unfamiliar languge.
- Yes: I was approached by a stranger babbling in an unfamiliar language.
- No: We could see big and small monkeys’ swinging from branch to branch.
- Yes: We could see big and small monkeys swinging from branch to branch..