One type of compound that might prove difficult for learners is that made up of an –ing form followed by a noun. In order to sort it out, an important difference has to be made. An word ending in –ing can be either a gerund, which is very close to a noun, or a present participle, which acts as a verb or an adjective. The accentual patterns are the same as those explained before:
Noun + noun (compound) = stress on the first element.
Adjective + noun (phrase) = stress on the second element.
Let’s se it in two groups of examples:
- Ing-word functioning as noun
- Ing-word functioning as adjective
The problem is that the distinction between these two categories –gerund and participle- is not clear-cut. It seems to be more like a continuum where the same word can function either as a noun or as an adjective. Let’s consider these cases:
So it is for the speaker to decide which word has to be accented according to whether it is functioning as a noun or adjective. A very good strategy is just to reason it out. A drinking problem is not a problem that drinks but a situation in which someone consumes too much alcohol. In fact, the noun alcohol could be substituted for drinking and the accentual pattern wouldn’t change: I’ve got an alcohol problem. So, this is clearly a noun and needs to get the accent. Similarly, a walking stick does not walk, but the walking dead do walk indeed.