Hello, teachers!
I know 'Sentence 1' is incorrect, and it should be 1a. I think this is because 'belong' is a static verb, not an action verb.
(x) 1. We live on Earth, belonging to the solar system.
-> 1a. We live on Earth, which belongs to the solar system.
However, sentences 2 is correct, I think.
2. We live on a planet [belonging, which belongs] to the solar system.

And I think #3, 4 & 5 are incorrect, but #6 is correct.
(x) 3. We have a lot of flowers [smelling] good in our garden.
(x) 4. Mother made me a beefsteak [tasting] heavenly.
(x) 5. Yesterday he bought a two-story building [having] five bed rooms.
6. A home [having] no child is like as the earth [having] no sun.

Here is my question;
Is there any criterion that decides whether or not we can use the present participle form of a static verb as a modifier. If so, would you please tell me what it is?

Thank you very much.
Best Regards.
Original Post
This is a very complicated and challenging question! My answer, though still somewhat tentative, points to two features of the utterance as determining whether or not a stative verb may be used in the participial form to modify a noun: 1) the nature of the noun that is modified and 2) the nature of the complement of the participle.

You are right that Sentences 1, 3, and 4 are not correct, and that Sentences 1a and 2 are indeed correct. (Sentences 5 and 6 are a special case, which we will address below.)

Stative verbs, which do not normally occur in the progressive, may be used in the present participle form as modifiers after an indefinite noun. For example

--Any person knowing (NOT *"who is knowing") the whereabouts of the suspect on the night of January 29 is asked to report to the central police station

--Customers believing (NOT *"who are believing") they are owed a refund must apply for a refund before June 30

--We live on a planet belonging (NOT *"which is belonging") to the solar system

These stative participles are OK because all three nouns are indefinite.

Because in Sentence 1 the noun "Earth" is specific, not indefinite, we can't use a stative participle to modify it.

Now, a problem: Sentences 3 and 4 have indefinite nouns, but they are still incorrect. Why? This is the tough part. I've concluded that the use of the participle of a stative verb also depends on the nature of its complement. We know that we can say

--We have a lot of flowers resembling roses in the garden, but they're not really roses

--We have a lot of flowers belonging to the lily family in the garden

--My mother served me a beefsteak weighing over a pound

--My mother served me a beefsteak containing hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides

-- He took a sweater smelling of mothballs out of the drawer

All these participles of stative verbs are OK. So why can't we say

*We have a lot of flowers smelling good in the garden


*Mother served me a beefsteak tasting heavenly

I think it's because these complements are adjectives. The "rule" seems to be that stative verbs and verb phrases, including taste, smell, taste like/of, smell like/of, contain, include, belong to, resemble, look like, measure, and weigh, must have a noun as complement if they are to be used as participles postmodifying a noun.

Therefore, the two criteria for using the present participle of a stative verb in a postmodifying phrase seem to be

1) The antecedent must be indefinite

2) The complement, including complements that are the object of a preposition, must be a noun, not an adjective

Sentences 5 and 6 represent a special case. When the verb in the participial phrase would be "having" ("possessing") it is usually (except sometimes with the indefinite words "any" + noun or "anyone" ) replaced by the preposition "with." For example

A car with no headlights (NOT *"having no headlights") suddenly appeared out of the mist

For this reason we would say

--Yesterday he bought a two-story building WITH five bed rooms.

--A home WITH no child (NOT "having no child") is like the earth WITH no sun

These are tentative conclusions. Anyone with further, or different, ideas is strongly encouraged and cordially invited to present them.

Marilyn Martin

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.