Tags:
  1. SethWilcox
    Offline

    SethWilcox New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Australia

    Confused about verb tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by SethWilcox, Oct 9, 2010.

    Hey everyone,

    I've read Strunk and White, etc, but I'm still confused about verb tense because sometimes what's correct doesn't sound right to me.

    Example 1:

    Evan dropped like a sack of potatoes, smacking his head on the corner of the display shelf on the way down.

    Dropped and smacking have different verb tense, so this is incorrect. A correct form would be:

    Evan dropped like a sack of potatoes and smacked his head on the corner of the display shelf on the way down.

    Which works, but to me, doesn't sound as good as the first example.

    Example 2:

    Similary, I like the sound of:

    Evan held out his open switchblade and pointed the tip at me. Stepping forward, he pressed the tip of the blade into my arm.

    But this is the correct form:

    Evan held out his open switchblade and pointed the tip at me. He stepped forward and pressed the tip of the blade into my arm.


    I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on either of these examples. Thanks!

    Seth
     
  2. Chudz
    Offline

    Chudz Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2008
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Suburb outside of Chicago
    "Smacking" in the above sentence is a gerund. It's actually working as a noun, and thus doesn't worry about tense. I would suggest looking up the term for more info. I know I was confused with the same issue in the past.
     
  3. SethWilcox
    Offline

    SethWilcox New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Australia
    Wow, thankyou - that's very helpful. Learnt a new word.
     
  4. Chudz
    Offline

    Chudz Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2008
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Suburb outside of Chicago
    You're quite welcome.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Actually, smacking his head on the corner of the display shelf on the way down is a participle phrase, not a gerund. A gerund would act as a noun, but the participle phrase is in this case acting as a modifier to Evan.

    An example of a gerund would be:

    Walking to school is good exercise. The bolded phrase is a gerund phrase, and acts in a noun role as the subject of the sentence.

    -ing words are participles, specifically present participles. How the participle acts in the sentence depends on where it is in the sentence, and whether there are helper verbs (am, is, was, have, had, will be, etc) working with the participle.

    Strunk and White is a style guide, not a grammar reference. Something like the Little, Brown Handbook is a better choice for understanding grammar. A good online reference site is the Perdue University Online Writing Lab (Perdue OWL).
     
  6. Chudz
    Offline

    Chudz Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2008
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Suburb outside of Chicago
    Ah, I stand corrected. My apologies Seth for veering you off in the wrong direction. I mixed up my verbals. *Sigh*
     
  7. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    As Cog has pointed out, Strunk and White is a style guide, not a grammar, so it's not a matter of right and wrong, it's a matter of the style that they like. What Cog didn't point out is that Strunk and White don't even follow their own advice and even get some of their grammar wrong (they don't understand what a passive construction is, for example).

    All of the sentences you quote are fine, and I would prefer the same ones as you.
     

Share This Page