7 Problem areas

The aim of the sections below is to show as explicitly as possible how a variety of problems were dealt with in the tagged LOB Corpus. Though the focus is on explaining actual practice in the corpus, there are also some remarks on what might have been done otherwise. In hindsight, it is easy to see that some things could have been done differently. This is a common enough experience in a large project; it is only at the end that one knows how to carry it out. We hope the sections below will be of interest both to the user of the tagged LOB Corpus and to those who embark on similar projects in the future.

The examples used in the discussion below are, with few exceptions, authentic corpus examples (whether references are given or not).9

7.1 Word division

When we say that each 'word' is assigned a tag, we mean each graphic word, i.e. each sequence of characters surrounded by spaces (or punctuation marks).10 This leads to differences in tagging where there is variation in spelling, as in:

fancy free


science fiction










first rate (works)


every day (life)


first-rate (works)


everyday (life)


Another consequence is that we get some very strange 'words', in particular hyphenated sequences, as in: an above-the-rooftops position. Most of these, however, are found only in attributive position and are given the tag JJB (see 7.8) and are therefore identified as more or less idiosyncratic. More seriously, the graphic word division sometimes conflicts sharply with syntactic boundaries, as in:


8's hall

the New

York-born Negress



a 6




Spanish and


In some cases of discrepancy of this kind we deviated from our 'one-word-one-tag' approach and resorted to idiom tagging, particularly in the case of recurrent multiword sequences functioning as units.

7.2 Idiom tagging

By idiom tagging we understand the treatment of a sequence as a unit using ditto tags (cf 3.3 and 4.4). Ditto tags were introduced at a late stage of the project and were used rather sparingly. Their use is related to: (1) the frequency of the sequence, (2) the degree of unacceptability or arbitrariness of single-word tagging, and (3) the chances of unambiguous identification of the sequence. The 'idiom list' through which the ditto tags were assigned contained a fairly limited number of high-frequency combinations. Sequences like so as to (TO TO"TO" rather than CS CS TO) and one another (PPLS PPLS" rather than CD1 DT) qualified according to all three criteria. A combination like at large qualifies according to the second (and perhaps also the first) criterion but failed the crucial third criterion and was therefore not included in the 'idiom list'. Another sequence not included was by and large, which satisfies the last two criteria. In a good number of cases (including the last two examples) ditto tag, s were introduced during post-editing to avoid an unacceptable or arbitrary choice of tags at the level of the single word.

The principal cases of idiom tagging found in the tagged LOB Corpus are:

AP AP" (AP")

a few, a little, a good many, a great many


as well as

CS CS" (CS") (CS")

but that, considering that, except that, in order that, in that, now that, provided that, save that, seeing that, so that, such that, in as much as, inasmuch as, in so far as, insofar as, so as, such as, as if, as though, even if, even though

IN IN"' (IN")

according to, a la, along with, apart from, as against, as between, as for, as from, as of, as opposed to, as regards, as to, as versus, as well as, because of, but for, by means of, except for, excepting for, in front of, in spite of, inspite of, irrespective of, on board, on top of, owing to, prior to, save for, subsequent to, such as, thanks to


a priori, clear cut, de luxe, far off, fed up, hard up, old fashioned, so called, short lived, wilful appearing


alter ego, avant garde, carte blanche, in between, post mortem, rigor mortis


grown ups


per cent, per \0cent


\0M \0P


no one

PN$ PN$"

no one's


each other('s), one another('s)11

RB RB" (RB")

a little, a priori, a posteriori, all but, all ready, all right, all round, anything but, and so on, and so forth, as good as, as well, as it were, as yet, at best, at first, at large, at last, at long last, at least, at length, at once, at random, at worst, by and by, by far, by and large, by(e) the by(e), far from, for certain, for ever, for good, for once, for sure, half way, in brief, in common, in full, in general, in particular, in private, in public, in short, in the main, in vain, inter alia, kind of, let alone, may be, more than, none the less, of a sudden, of course, of late, once more, per se, and again, vice versa


in order to, so as to


button stitch, soft pedal

There is a problem when these sequences, as occasionally happens, are interrupted: a good few, in order not to, so as not to, except perhaps for, apart altogether from; owing, however, to. As such interruptions are not very frequent, it was not considered necessary to devise a special mechanism for handling them.

Users of the tagged corpus will probably find that the use of idiom tagging is not quite consistent, and they may well wonder why certain sequences have not qualified. The reason is partly conflict between the three criteria mentioned above and partly the fact that the 'idiom list' was a rather late addition to the automatic tagging system and only minor adjustments could be made at the stage of post-editing.

For some comments on idiom tagging with different categories of words, see 7.10 (adverbs), 7.12 (determiners), 7.13 (prepositions), 7.14 (conjunctions), and 7.21 (foreign expressions).

7.3 -ed forms

An -ed form can be VBD, VBN, or JJ. There are also rare cases of IN (7.13, note 29), CS (7.14), and RB (7.18, the end). The choice of VBD vs VBN is occasionally problematic:

  1. A scream from the Slaytons' living-room can be heard at the Weeks' if the French doors are open. It can't if they're closed. - 'You tested it?' - 'That was my experiment this morning.' L18:4-7
  2. 'You heard what happened to Appleton after the meeting?' I said. 'Yeah,' he said. 'I heard.' N06:36-38
  3. 'But I've just been extremely clumsy, trying to find my way around. Knocked something over and turned the whole room into a shambles, apparently.' P09:152-154.
  4. Should tested in (1) and the first occurrence of heard in (2) be interpreted as past-tense forms or present-perfect forms? In the former case we get questions with subject-verb order, in the latter ordinary interrogative structures with ellipsis of the initial auxiliary. Similarly, the second occurrence of heard in (2) and the verb forms in the second sentence of (3) could be regarded as past-tense forms or as present-perfect forms with ellipsis of the auxiliary. Apart from a small number of examples of this kind (dealt with according to the first principle in Section 6), the choice of VBD vs VBN is straightforward.

    The major problem with -ed forms is the choice of VBN vs JJ. VBN is used when the -ed form is part of a complex verbal group (perfective aspect or passive) and when it occurs alone in non-finite clauses, as in:

  5. Asked what they were doing they said they were... A35:213
  6. The question asked most often is... J16:151
  7. The verbal character is shown by the type of complementation. Clear cases of JJ are:

    1. bona fide adjectives ending in -ed: naked, wicked, etc.

    2. -ed forms derived from nouns: talented, diseased, etc.

    Since many words in English can be either nouns or verbs, it is not always easy to distinguish this type from verb forms, e.g. in:

  8. ... sitting in a child's arm-chair decorated with ribbons and flowers and curtained all round so that... F37:105
  9. Because of the coordination with a clear VBN form (decorated) and because of the following purpose clause, curtained is here probably best analysed as VBN.

    3. prefixed or compound -ed forms like: unexpected, downtrodden, well-behaved, etc. The elimination of the ending does not result in an existing verb form: *unexpect, *well-behave, etc. However, forms beginning with un- may be problematic, as there are a good number of verbs with this prefix: undo, unlock, etc. Occasionally the same form can be analysed in two ways. Compare:

  10. One night the Cardinal left the prisoner's door unlocked... K14:141
  11. The inner door was unlocked and flung open. N17:208
  12. Because of the 'static' meaning in (7) and the 'dynamic' quality of the verbs in (8), the tags assigned were JJ vs VBN. See further the discussion below of problematic forms.

    4. -ed forms as premodifiers of nouns: his injured leg, his well balanced compositions, the well established club, etc. The tag JJ is assigned even when the -ed form clearly has verbal characteristics (e.g. is preceded by an adverb which typically accompanies a verb) as in: admitably written books (F10:60), a badly curtained window (L17:67). Note the difference in tagging of pre- and postmodifying -ed forms (JJ vs VBN): the observed data (J32:55) vs the headfirst downward swimming observed in the field (J06:92); the above mentioned bodies (B10:215) vs the work mentioned in Chapter 17 (G02:62); etc.

    5. -ed forms in nominal positions: the aged and the maimed, from the known to the unknowable, the seen and the unseen, the wounded, the most defeated of the inhabitants, etc. Since JJ is retained for clear adjectives in these cases (generic singular and plural forms and cases where a head noun is recoverable from the context; see 7.9), it should also be used for comparable -ed forms. Very rarely the reference is to an individual and a head noun is not recoverable from the context. The forms are then more noun-like and may even take genitive endings, which points towards NN: the accused, the deceased, her firstborn. Nevertheless, JJ was kept in these cases, since plural inflection does not occur (the other two accused A43:21). But note: coloureds NNS (A28:61, D17:62), newly-weds NNS (C04:55).

    The principal problems arise with -ed forms after BE, which can either be a passive auxiliary (followed by VBN) or a copula (followed by JJ). VBN is used:

    1. when there is a following by-phrase denoting an agent, as in: was surprised by ... ;

    2. in other cases where the meaning is clearly 'dynamic' and a straightforward active equivalent is available: was built, was killed, etc;

    3. with action verbs even when the meaning is 'stative'. Thus VBN is assigned in both of the following examples:

  13. The chimney was closed and the hearth recess cleaned of its soot... F39:88
  14. Only Henry's head nodded, his eyes were closed, and his breathing loud and heavy... K17:178
  15. The structure of coordination in (10) shows that closed is similar to an adjective. Nevertheless, this form and other 'stative' -ed forms of action verbs have not achieved clear adjective status, as shown by their inability to accept intensification by very: *very closed, *very built, etc.

    An -ed form after BE which cannot be identified as JJ on the basis of the criteria mentioned earlier is tagged JJ if two or more of the following conditions apply:

    1. The form denotes a state (often an emotional state) rather than a process: agitated, confused, disappointed, surprised, etc.

    2. The subject is human and denotes an experiencer. In contrast, the subject in a BE + VBN construction typically denotes a non-human entity affected by the action of the verb. Compare: she is disappointed vs the house is already sold.

    3. BE can be replaced by the copula SEEM. Compare: she seems disappointed vs *the house seems already sold.

    4. The -ed form can be preceded by the intensifier very. Compare: she is very disappointed vs *the house is very sold.

    Forms tagged JJ often also have some of the following characteristics:

    5. They can take prefixes characteristic of adjectives: inexperienced, overcrowded, uncomplicated, etc.

    6. Coordination with clear adjectives is normal: happy and pleased, gentle and civilised, etc.

    7. They can be replaced by synonyms or near-synonyms which are clear adjectives: tired, weary; complicated, complex; relaxed, calm; etc.

    8. They are followed by prepositions which typically occur after adjectives. Compare: worried about, anxious about; pleased with, angry with; surprised at, angry at; etc. Note the difference in tagging depending upon the following preposition in cases like

    surprised at


    pleased with


    worried about


    surprised by


    pleased by


    worried by


    9. The frequency of the -ed form in characteristically adjectival positions (attributive and predicative) is very high and outstrips the occurrences of clearly verbal uses.

    Using the above criteria we can, for example, distinguish between:

  16. ... had every reason to be so concerned (JJ) about the precariousness of... F15:16
  17. ... the poet is concerned (VBN) with an audience ... J60:52
  18. ... Wynter was devoted (JJ) to his wife... L24:108
  19. ... much of the book is devoted (VBN) to drafting ... C14:188
  20. ... even that was too involved (JJ) and tortuous for some foreign readers... A18:15
  21. ... he's involved (VBN) in several of my business ventures... K05:181
  22. Compare also:


    ... all her movements were limited and painful. F31:25
    ... the powers contained in the trustee act were far too limited. J50:55
    ... five citizens are coloured for every one who is white. B01:37
    Since the majority of immigrants today are coloured... B 15:108


    ... the intake will still be strictly limited. B 18:95
    I doubt very much whether the word can be limited to this meaning... F27:185
    ... the hair and eyes were coloured as indicated in the book. J24:17
    ... the birds are coloured green and the shields are orange-yellow... J67:107

    In spite of all our criteria, we cannot claim that the tagging of -ed forms has been carried through consistently. The coordination criterion must be used with caution, as shown by the coordination of an adjective and a verb form in: Most marriages were polygonous and based upon a system of bride-price ... (J22:42-43). Sometimes the criteria conflict:

  23. ... its functions ought to be unaffected by the condition of the body. D14:90
  24. ... I am impressed, perhaps over-impressed, by their relative crudity... J46:161

The prefixed -ed forms here should be JJ, since the elimination of the prefix does not result in an existing verb form. Nevertheless, the following by-phrase points in the direction of VBN. The former criterion was regarded as primary in this case, since it can be tested without inspection of context.

There definitely is no clear borderline between -ed adjectives and verb forms. In many cases we had to fall back upon the 'follow-the-tagger principle' (Section 6) and leave the ta chosen by the automatic tagging programs.

7.4 -ing forms

An -ing form can be V13G, JJ, NN, or RB (there are also rare cases of CS and IN; see 7.13 and 7.14). The RB tag is only applied rarely, in cases like: boiling hot, raving mad, screaming red, shining clean. There are three major classification problems with -ing forms: V13G vs JJ, V13G vs NN, and NN vs JJ.


VBG is used when the -ing form is part of a complex verbal group (progressive aspect) and when it occurs alone in non-finite clauses, as in:

  1. I had a telegram from Anthony Powell offering hearty congratulations upon it, but asking had I any objections to signing it 'in full'. G14:169-170
  2. ... it's asking for trouble relying on that old fool. L17:107
  3. The verbal character is shown by the type of complementation. JJ rather than VBG is assigned:

    1. where the elimination of the ending does not result in an existing verb form: awe-inspiring, deep-thinking, fierce - looking, hardworking, long-lasting, selfgoverning, thoroughgoing, uncompromising, etc.

    2. where the -ing form is a premodifier in a noun phrase: an exciting performance; the existing pattern; a petty, tottering dictator; etc. JJ is assigned even when accompanying elements point toward VBG: the sound-producing apparatus (J32:7); power producing units (J78:148); with heavily beating heart (L04:91); etc. Note the difference in the tagging of pre- and postmodifying -ing forms (JJ vs VBG): a living man (J52:141) vs neither you nor any man living (P11:84); so many sitting targets (A23:98) vs a man sitting opposite her (N17:82); etc. The difference in tagging between the two positions reflects the degree of approximation (in structure and sequence) to an ordinary finite clause. Distinguishing between JJ and NN in premodifying position is often difficult; see below.

    3. where the -ing form is used in a nominal position comparable to an adjective (ef 7.3 and 7.9), as in: the most promising of playwrights (C 14:205), spend it on the living (A36:110).

    Difficulties in distinguishing VBG and JJ arise particularly after BE, which can either be a progressive auxiliary (followed by VBG) or a copula (followed by JJ).

    The distinction is, however, clearer than that between VBN and JJ with -ed forms. VBG is assigned:

    1. where there is a following object or another accompanying element characteristic of a verb, as in:

  4. It is, of course, this aspect of the matter that is disturbing the Home Secretary. B17:60
  5. Her very feelings were frightening her now. P25:167
  6. Hanson was rapidly becoming exasperated... N05:28
  7. 2. where the BE + -ing construction can be replaced by a single verb form without injuring the structure of the sentence. Compare: she is smiling, she smiles; it is raining, it rains; etc.

    The tag JJ is assigned to -ing forms after BE which have the following characteristics:

    1. They are related to transitive verbs which require an object or other post-verbal complement, but these are lacking and cannot be inserted after the -ing form. Compare: she surprises me vs she is surprising; it irritates me vs it is irritating; etc. Very often verbs of this kind take an experiencer object. An experiencer can be expressed by a prepositional phrase following the -ing form, as in:

  8. It seemed surprising to me that... R08:15
  9. The silence was quite terrifying to Mollie... P13:189
  10. It is interesting that there are many adjectival -ing and -ed forms related to the same verb. Compare: it surprises me, I am surprised (at it), it is surprising; it disappoints me, I am disappointed (with it), it is disappointing: it bores me, I am bored (with it), it is boring; it frightens me, I am frightened (of it), it is frightening; etc. Since adjectival and verbal -ed forms are harder to distinguish (cf 7.3), JJ-tagging is less widely used in the tagged corpus with -ed forms than with -ing forms in these cases.

    Adjectival -ing forms after BE are not only related to verbs taking an experiencer object: statutes are binding (J49:37), cinema is not so compelling as TV (J26:31), neither was daring nor held views beyond the rest of the people (K05:135), the person is in every way deserving of the medal (H24:84), Mr Baring was less enterprising (K22:32), the results so far achieved are promising (J78:158), the British section which is very revealing (J66:30), etc.

    2. BE + -ing cannot be replaced by a simple verb form without producing an ungrammatical sentence. Compare: it is amazing vs *it amazes; it is comforting vs *it comforts; it is frightening vs *it frightens; it is awfully becoming vs *it awfully becomes; it is binding vs *it binds; etc.

    3. BE can be replaced by the copula SEEM. Compare: she seems charming vs *she seems smiling.

    4. The -ing form can be preceded by the intensifier very. Compare: she is very charming vs *she is very smiling.

    Forms tagged JJ may also have the following characteristics:

    5. They can often take prefixes characteristic of adjectives: unexciting. unconvincing, etc.

    6. Coordination with clear adjectives is normal: long and boring; enthusiastic and stimulating:etc.

    7. They can be replaced by synonyms or near-synonyms which are clear adjectives: surprising, remarkable; charming, delightful; etc.

    8. They can often form adverbs by the addition of -ly: fittingly, strikingly, startlingly, surprisingly, etc.

    9. The frequency of the -ing form in characteristically adjectival positions (attributive and predicative) is often high and outstrips the occurrences of clearly verbal uses.

    Using the above criteria we can, for example, distinguish between the -ing forms in:

  11. ... as I parried I realized that he was tiring (VBG) ... N15:6
  12. The housewife would find life far less tiring (JJ) if... D06:144
  13. The clock was striking (VBG) six... N21:33
  14. This phenomenon is very striking (JJ) ... J25:78
  15. Three -ing forms after BE (lacking, missing, wanting) stand apart from the rest in lacking most of the adjectival characteristics. The tag D is used in examples like:

  16. ... his words are not in the least lacking in humanity. G37:138
  17. ... the pleasures most engaged couples shared would be missing for Jock and Marion. P25:37
  18. However, when there is a following object, the tag assigned is VBG:

  19. ... had found the western alliance infirm of purpose and lacking precision of aim. G05:138
  20. ... realising how near they had come to missing each other. P13:13
  21. Another special group consists of forms like: shining, beaming, glittering, sparkling. These are frequent in attributive position: shining eyes, sparkling wine, etc. Note the closeness to adjectives shown by the coordination in:

  22. The ecclesiastical half was neat and shining, the official half untidy, strewn with papers. K24:21
  23. His face was shining, and happier than I'd ever seen it. L19:98
  24. But clear adjectives can be coordinated with indisputable verb forms, as in:

  25. ... an arm which was swollen to enormous proportions and stinking, gangrenous... N08:83
  26. 'Come on!' she called, nervous and laughing. K28:89
  27. 20... a great shambling American poet big as a house and earning enough money to live in one in smart Belgravia... A19:198

    Since the -ing forms in (16)-(17) fulfil one of our criteria for verb forms (cf above), the tag assigned was VBG.

    VBG vs NN

    Distinguishing VBG and NN is difficult with many -ing forms in nominal position. VBG is assigned to forms which are accompanied by objects or other elements characteristic of verbs, as in:

  28. In writing a letter, you arrange it in paragraphs. F03:153
  29. ... I could remember writing an essay about him at school. R07:189
  30. But the amount he gets by actually writing poetry... A 19:205
  31. While genitive and possessive forms are inconclusive (see below), nominative or accusative 'subjects' identify an -ing form as VBG:

  32. He remembered his parents talking of Maine... N14:3
  33. I could see one of our Indians fishing... M03:185
  34. ... is done by accommodation and by the parties understanding each other. C08:121
  35. ... his story of Esmond being alive... P24:182
  36. I don't object to them going. K09:162
  37. NN(S) is obviously used with -ing forms which have both the morphological and syntactic characteristics of nouns: building(s), painting(s), etc. Most often the grammatical status is revealed by syntactic features alone. NN is assigned to -ing forms preceded by determiners or modifiers characteristic of nouns, or followed by postmodifiers typical of nouns (especially of-phrases), as in:

  38. ... the writing was always on the wall... A41:64
  39. The prose writing seems vastly superior. C12:127
  40. ... the drudgery of actual writing... F21:135
  41. ... at this stage he more or less gives up the writing of poetry. J60:6
  42. Note that a nominal -ing form can be followed by an adverbial particle: needed a thorough shaking up (C04:102), the speeding up of the process (G65:148), the setting up of the Public Schools Commission (F28:112), etc. In such cases, however, the forms are usually hyphenated: building-up, rolling-up, winding-up, etc.

    Sometimes there is a conflict between different clues in the context, as in examples like: 12

  43. There is no denying that... J36:193
  44. After all, there is no gainsaying the facts... B17:80
  45. There's no knowing when Hilary will be back... L05:103
  46. The determiner points towards NN, but since -ing forms in such constructions can take a direct object, which is perhaps our best criterion for verbal status, the tag assigned was VBG. Both noun- and verblike features are found with the coordinated -ing forms in

  47. Yet this pushing (NN) and calling (VBG) her by name seemed... G19:109
  48. It would probably be just the strain of gymkhana jumping (NN) and cycling (VBG) madly all over the place. K16:170
  49. The coordinated -ing forms have here been treated differently, in accordance with the elements in the immediate context of each form.

    Actual conflict between our criteria is not very frequent. More often difficulties arise where there is no sufficient indication in the context of VBG vs NN status. This applies to the following two cases

    1. -ing forms preceded by possessive determiners and genitive form

    Note that these can clearly be followed by VBG or NN, as shown by other elements in the context in:

  50. ... his lighting (NN) of the later scenes suggested the ultimate isolation in which the Poet finds himself. C01:67
  51. ... spent all those hours together on Balicou without his kissing (VBG) you. N02:98
  52. Such a training cannot narrow a man's understanding (NN) of other people's opinions... J61:87
  53. But it is surely not simply a question, in poetic creation, of the poet's having (VBG) something clearly formed in his mind... J60:55
  54. Where there are no other clues in the context, the classification is problematic. The automatic tagging programs here tend to choose NN, which is no doubt often the correct choice, as in:

  55. ... we have to attribute his liking to some early association... G38:73
  56. ... the "animal and vegetable" elements of man's being are destroyed... D14:99
  57. ... all that went to its making ... G66:170
  58. ... launched their undertaking ... A13:261
  59. Soon after that Pete staged his drowning. L01:17
  60. The verbs corresponding to the -ing forms in (41)-(44) require an object or other postverbal element, but these are lacking (in the third example the object relationship is expressed through the preceding possessive determiner). In (44) and (45) the superordinate verbs are of a kind which cannot be followed by a non-finite clause.

    Where the possessive or genitive form expresses a subject relationship, a case can often be made for VBG, as in:

  61. Am I expected not to mind your going away for three weeks? P03:151
  62. He would think she was sad at his going. K18:104
  63. Here it is possible to insert clear verb constructions. Compare:

  64. Don't mind me asking this, Mr Deane. P26:157
  65. ... may feel a little sad at having to live with... E08:189
  66. Many examples do not contain any clues like those mentioned above, e.g.:

  67. His understanding was necessarily subjective... J60:135
  68. His drawing has gained in strength... J66:134
  69. He lied certainly - lied continuously. But his lying was of a special kind... G14:48
  70. In such cases the general rule was to leave the tag assigned by the automatic tagging programs (cf Section 6). Some of the tests taken up under the next point were, however, helpful.

    2. Naked -ing forms

    The most serious problem is handling 'naked' -ing forms in nominal positions. Where the elimination of the ending does not result in an existing verb form, we must clearly tag NN: book-making, ballet-composing, glass-blowing, stonethrowing, adventuring, etc. Note also that a 'naked' -ing form of a transitive verb is tagged NN, because of the lack of an object, as

  71. ... a craft course (e.g. in building and printing)... G72:76
  72. The most that a household can normally be expected to pay for housing is... J47:144
  73. ... the measure of conditioning... J80:143
  74. ... slogans... which gradually become empty of meaning. G73:154
  75. ... other types of wiring... H06:134
  76. ... stir in butter and seasoning... E20:24
  77. An analysis of cases of industrial disease or poisoning... H06:20
  78. Meaning is also a good guide here, especially where the -ing form is used in a concrete sense (as in 57 and 58). Coordination with a clear noun or noun phrase is a further clue (as in 58 and 59); the shared modifier in the last example is especially significant.

    The analysis of 'naked' -ing forms of transitive verbs is less straightforward in object position after: deserve, need, require, want. Examples (the only instances found in the corpus occurred with NEED):

  79. ... it is doubtful whether miners' wives ever need prompting in their concern for their men's safety... B18:169
  80. ... they saw nothing which needed defending. C 11: 112
  81. The meaning of the -ing form is equivalent to a passive to-infinitive. Compare:

  82. These differences need to be reconsidered. B 12:194
  83. ... builds up tensions which need to be handled correctly. D06:131
  84. An -ing form after NEED can clearly be NN, as shown by the determiner in:

  85. You don't need teaching, only a little coaching.
  86. Clear evidence of verbal status is hard to find. Compare:

  87. The house needs careful painting (NN).
  88. The house needs to be painted carefully.
    ?The house needs painting (VBG) carefully.
  89. In spite of this, the general rule has been to use the tag VBG for 'naked' -ing forms after NEED, provided (1) that they can be paraphrased by a passive to-infinitive and (2) that the object is recoverable from the subject of the superordinate clause.

    The greatest difficulties arise with 'naked' -ing forms of intransitive verbs (or verbs which have both transitive and intransitive uses). Examples:

  90. His mother nodded with understanding. R02:148
  91. found they were reduced to kicking. A08:24
  92. supernatural beings endowed with properties of knowing, feeling and willing akin to those of a human personality. G69:28
  93. ... from opening at eight till closing at one-thirty... K07:208
  94. ... the two international artists have too many engagements elsewhere... The company cannot afford to hire them for touring. A39:12
  95. A 'naked' -ing form of an intransitive verb can clearly be either NN or VBG. Consider the following examples:

  96. I like swimming (fast).
  97. I like (fast) swimming.
  98. He aims at advertising (now).
  99. He aims at (good) advertising.
  100. As shown by the possible additions (within parentheses), the forms can combine either with adverbs (as in 72 and 74) or adjectives (as in 73 and 75). In the former case there is a specific subject recoverable from the superordinate clause.

    Where a specific subject is recoverable from the context, the tag assigned is V13G, as in:

  101. ... we cannot keep going. D13:118
  102. For god's sake stop chafing and start fishing... N27:196
  103. ... we hope it won't deter you from coming. K26:141
  104. If the -ing form occurs in a position which cannot be occupied by a clear noun or noun phrase, the tagging V13G would seem natural., e.g. after the intransitive verbs in:

  105. ... the machinery of government will go on ticking...
  106. The German Ambassador, Dr Hans von Herwarth, has left London to go ski-ing in the Italian Alps. A09:50
  107. But while there are parallels to (79) with clear verb constructions, we find examples like (80) with -ing forms which we would not normally classify as verbs. Compare:

  108. Why did I have to go on tormenting myself? L12:101
  109. ... the top dogs rarely go pot hunting. E32:46
  110. The construction illustrated in (80) and (82) does, in fact, accept -ing forms which cannot easily be classified: go flat-hunting, go potholing, go sightseeing, etc. There are no verbs *pot hunt, *flat-hunt, *pothole, *sightsee. Nevertheless, where the GO + -ing construction is used, we may also find BE + -ing, which is a clear verb construction (progressive aspect): were pot hunting, were flat-hunting, were potholing, were sightseeing. Since these -ing forms can clearly occupy verbal positions, the best tag seems to be VBG.

    A naked -ing form receives the tag NN under the following conditions (cf above):

    1. where the elimination of the ending does not result in an existing verb form (but note the problem raised by examples like 82);

    2. where the corresponding verb is transitive (but note the treatment of examples like 60 and 6 1).

    In assigning NN we have also been guided by the following considerations:

    3. If the form in -ing is quite established in a nominal function, NN is often the best tag: advertising, engineering, housing, training, etc. Such forms often have special meanings and are listed as separate entries in dictionaries.

    4. If there are a good number of clear examples of a nominal -ing form elsewhere in the same text, NN may be extended to uncertain cases.

    5. If a specific subject cannot be recovered from the context, NN may be preferable to VBG (cf 76-78 examples). Note, however, that there is no specific subject recoverable from the context with many clear cases of VBG, as in:

  111. Taking on the bin is a one-man job... E38:141
  112. Schemes for training young people in industry and commerce will be... H07:166
  113. For cheapness 1 recommend using Douglas Fir Plywood from British Columbia. E04:89
  114. 1 do not recommend covering such tender shrubs completely with... E08:103
  115. 6. Coordination with clear nouns or noun phrases points towards NN. Examples (see also 58 and 59 above):

  116. ... her face showing her love and understanding. P13:28
  117. By that time having had my fill of flowers, crowds, mourning, and music... G30:43
  118. ... there were oaths and swearing and cries of 'pot the red'. G25:161
  119. ... for badminton, rowing and swimming... H29:5
  120. ... a day's shooting, hunting, golf, football ... E26:136
  121. ... a day's walking or climbing or fishing... E26:62
  122. Just a bad sprain with bruising and swelling. F31:35
  123. The evidence in (92) may seem inconclusive, but since the genitive form does not express a subject relationship (cf above), NN is the tag to be preferred and can be assigned to the three coordinated -ing forms. Bruising in (93) is related to a transitive verb and is therefore NN (cf above) and the same tag can be used for swelling. The following examples show the limitation of the coordination criterion:

  124. ... an aged Empress preoccupied with religion and making scents... J64:141
  125. He was delightful company whether on a fowling expedition or bird-watching or fishing... G17:97
  126. In (94) we find coordination of a clear noun and a clear VBG construction. In (95) a prepositional phrase is coordinated with a problematic form like that in example (82) above and a 'naked' -ing form which can be expanded to a finite verbal group (whether he was fishing) and therefore must be VBG. Our 'leaking' criteria do not allow consistent classification of many 'naked' -ing forms. Often it was necessary to resort to the 'follow-the-tagger principle' (Section 6) and thus leave the tag assigned by the automatic tagging programs.

    NN vs JJ

    Note first that JJ is used when an -ing form occurs in a nominal position comparable to an adjective; cf above (VBG vs JJ). The main difficulty arises with -ing forms in attributive position before a noun. Here we can eliminate VBG, since verbs do not generally occupy this position and the tag VBG is rarely picked here by the automatic tagging programs. But both nouns and adjectives occur attributively. Compare:

  127. the teaching and research (NN) departments H26:85
  128. a most intimate (JJ) and lasting friendship G04:152
  129. Distinguishing between NN and JJ in attributive position is often problematic (see 7.9), and this is especially true of -ing forms. It is indeed debatable whether we can, or should, draw a borderline between NN and JJ with attributive -ing forms. But since such a distinction is traditionally made in grammars and dictionaries and since there are clear cases of both categories, an attempt has been made to distinguish them. Criteria:

    1. If the -ing form is clearly established in other positions as NN rather than JJ, or vice versa, these tags can safely be extended to attributive position. Compare:

  130. the new housing (NN) estate N16:44
  131. this surprising (JJ) statement A01:145
  132. 2. A preceding modifier may point in the direction of NN or JJ. Compare:

  133. technical engineering (NN) staff H23:82
  134. the slowly closing (JJ) curtains CIO:57
  135. 3. Coordination with clear nouns or adjectives is helpful in many cases; cf. (96)-(97) above. Similarly, substitution by clear nouns or adjectives can often be a good guide. Compare:

  136. a parting hug P29:118
  137. the opening questions F13:101
  138. 4. The principal criterion has been paraphrase. A JJ form can be paraphrased with a following relative clause: 'who/which BE... JP or 'who/which VB...'. NN can be paraphrased as: 'for/of ...-ing'. Compare:



    finishing school A37:35

    finishing touches E04:51

    living arrangements F02:48

    living animals G02:137

    living space B26:112

    the living brain D14:77

    retiring age H27:57

    the retiring Mayor A30:15

    a sitting position P04:90

    sitting targets A23:98

    a standing place in the

    his humanistic standing

    spiritual world G32:119

    figures C07:109

    standing room only P01:86

    standing committee A11:183

    travelling dress G39:3

    a travelling zoo G54:84

    working hours A30:115

    working mother A35:196

    working space E27:94

    the working population B15:61

    Some forms allow both paraphrases, e.g.:

  139. managing director        'who manages'
    A24:18                       'for managing'
  140. warning shots               'which warn'
    A27:87                       'for warning'
  141. The tendency in such cases has been to opt for JJ, but there is no doubt some inconsistency on this point.

    Complex attributive -ing forms have been treated in the same way as simple ones. Compare:

  142. school-leaving age A44:55
  143. addiction-producing drugs H02:170
  144. Where there is no hyphen, each word must be tagged individually, as in:

  145. tidying up implements P01:142
    NN     RP
  146. an aircraft distributing firm A10:180
          NN        JJ
  147. The tag VBG is not used in cases like (109), as the 'object' precedes the -ing form and the sequence is therefore quite different from that of a clause with a verb followed by its object.

    There are many problems with our paraphrase criteria. Some forms which we would like to tag

    JJ do not fulfil the paraphrase criterion for JJ, e.g.:

  148. ... many was the mad, snuffed-out laughter conversation they carried out behind her father's disapproving newspaper. P22:121
  149. Jane watched progress with eager, loving eyes... P16:67
  150. In (110) it is definitely not the newspaper which disapproves. It is less certain whether the paraphrase criterion fails with (111), since loving does occur as an adjective in predicative position, as in: Her look was loving. In such cases an attribute is transferred from a person to a thing associated with the person, often a part of the body. Since such 'transferred' modifiers are also found with bona-fide adjectives (eager eyes), the tagging JJ is the natural one.

    Many forms have been tagged NN, although they do not satisfy our paraphrase criterion for NN (provided that the adjective criterion also fails). Examples:

  151. sporting commentary A08:138
    sporting books A07:205
  152. starting prices LI0:30
    starting salaries M02:177
  153. a stumbling block C05:14

NN-tagging is questionable in examples like (112), since sporting does not occur in clearly nominal positions. The form is also listed as an adjective in many dictionaries (though it lacks clear adjective characteristics).

English -ing forms are versatile in the functions they can fulfil and the meanings they can express. In many cases it is difficult to draw a borderline and, more often than elsewhere, we had to sacrifice consistency of classification and fall back upon our 'follow-the-tagger' principle (Section 6).