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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Explaining the difference in meaning/focus when using gerund(?) or noun    

Explaining the difference in meaning/focus when using gerund(?) or noun

United States

Explaining the difference in meaning/focus when using gerund(?) or noun
Hi All,
A student came to me today with a question I wasn�t able to answer with a "simple" explanation (he is a highly intelligent, adult, advanced English speaker with "professor type" questions).
He was putting together a presentation and asked what the difference in meaning would be if he used "establishing" instead of "establishment".  Example:
The desired result was achieved through
    A) Establishment of a system for monitoring process deviation in...
    B) Identification of superfluous processes
    C) Elimination of duality
The desired result was achieved through
    A) Establishing a system for monitoring process deviation in...
    B) Identifying superfluous processes
    C) Eliminating duality
There is a subtle difference in the meaning  here and I am trying to find a way to explain it. 
My first thought is to say that when we use the gerund form we are focusing more on the process/action whereas the "purer" noun form focuses more on the result.
Any thoughts on this?  (When to use establishing  vs establish for example)
Thanks in Advance,

17 Oct 2012      


Hi there,

I �d have to agree with your assumption. Although, I �d really have to say that the difference is (at least to me) so slight that the two words are interchangeable - well, depending on the context of the sentence, of course.

Linda :)

17 Oct 2012     


That �s what I also thought of while reading your example sentences: process and result.
I can �t think of a better explanation.

In the context of these examples I �d choose the gerund form. 

It says "It was achieved through..." and in my mind at least through should be followed by a "process".

Not a very professor type answer I �m afraid LOL

17 Oct 2012     

United States

I feel the same difference as you, and would further demonstrate it by talking about the continuous tenses, and their emphasis on the process, rather than the result. This is what the present participle/gerund does.
I agree with Linda that the difference is slight enough to be unimportant, and with perma about "through". I would probably say "by the establishment of" or "through establishing".

17 Oct 2012     


Although the meaning of your sentences does not change, using verbs or gerunds instead of nouns makes a report or presentation slightly less formal.

The excessive use of nouns is often seen in official reports that are drier than dust. Using a mixture of verbs and nouns - and I prefer more verbs or gerunds than nouns - makes the whole text easier to read and digest, or the presentation less boring to listen to.

Just my two cents.

17 Oct 2012     

United States

Great feedback everybody!  It really helped, THANK-YOU!!

18 Oct 2012