Fused Participles

Understanding Fused Participles

Fused participles, also known as gerundial nouns or substantive gerunds, are phrases that appear to combine a noun with a participle. Although the term might sound intimidating, once you understand what it means, recognizing and avoiding such constructions (if necessary) in your writing becomes much easier. This tutorial will provide you an in-depth understanding of fused participles.

Definition of Fused Participles

A fused participle is a verb ending in -ing that is used as a noun, and then linked to the rest of the sentence using a possessive pronoun or determiner. It fuses together a noun and a participle. This can sometimes cause lack of clarity in the sentence, making it difficult for the reader to understand who or what is performing the action of the verb.

Example of a fused participle:

“I object to John smoking.”

In this sentence, the action of smoking is attributed to John which causes a conflict between the noun ‘John’ and the ‘smoking’ action, thereby making John and smoke into a fused participle.

Types of Fused Participles

Fused participles can occur in two forms, “genitive with participle” (which is more acceptable) and “accusative with participle” (which is often discouraged).

1. Genitive with participle:

The genitive with participle, which is often considered more stylistically correct, uses a noun or pronoun in the possessive form (the genitive case) with a noun/verb + ing.

For example: “We watched the sun’s setting.”

In this sentence, ‘the sun’s’ is in the possessive form, and it goes with the noun/verb + ing (setting) to form a fused participle (the sun’s setting).

2. Accusative with participle:

The accusative with participle refers to the use of a noun or pronoun in the objective form (the accusative case) with a noun/verb + ing.

For example: “I remember him entering the room.”

In this sentence, ‘him’ is in the objective form, and it goes with the noun/verb + ing (entering) to form a fused participle. In this case though, it’s often better to opt for a possessive + participle construction instead, for example, “I remember his entering the room.”

Recognizing Fused Participles

Here are some ways to recognize fused participles in your writing:

  • An -ing word (either a gerund or present participle) directly follows a noun or pronoun
  • That noun is the grammatical subject of the -ing word, the one doing the actions
  • There is no space between the two words, compared to standard participial phrases.

How to Avoid Fused Participles

Fused participles can be avoided by simply separating the fusing elements, like:

  • Use the appropriate preposition between the noun/pronoun and the participle
  • Change the noun/pronoun so that it is no longer the subject of the participle or gerund
  • Rewrite the sentence completely so that it doesn’t use this grammatical construction

Correct Fused Participles Examples:

Here are some examples to illustrate these rules:

  • Instead of “I appreciate you helping me”, write “I appreciate your help.”
  • Instead of “They recall their meeting Jane”, we say “They recall meeting Jane.”
  • Rather than “I don’t like Tom complaining all the time”, say “I don’t like it when Tom complains all the time.”


Understanding and recognizing fused participles isn’t necessarily intuitive, but it is a key part of producing clear and coherent writing. While you might find some instances where the ability to combine a noun and participle helps you say exactly what you mean, in most cases, it’s best to avoid this structure. By practicing and becoming more aware of fused participicles, your grammar competence will greatly improve.

Remember, writing is a craft that you perfect with constant practice and continual learning. Happy writing!

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