1. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Confusion

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by The-Joker, Nov 21, 2009.

    A question. Would a statement like this be gramatically correct?

    In this case the character first moves to the window, then draws the blinds. But can you use this sentence construction to convey that?
     
  2. Saigo
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    Saigo Member

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    No, because you're saying "moving to the window" and "drew the blinds". You're using present tense followed by past tense but you're trying to show how it happened chronologically. Grammatically correct it would be "He/she/it moved towards the window and drew the blinds."
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'moving'/'drew' is not a problem, as 'ing' verbs are often used properly in past tense, when the action is being done in the past, though it's not always the best way to go style-wise...

    what's wrong with that sentence is not grammar or tense, but just writing style and sense-making...

    what you have said there is that 'while he was moving to the window, he drew the blinds'... and that's not physically possible, since he'd have to be there, not just on his way, to do that...

    the correction offered has the same problem, since he only moved 'towards' the window, so clearly hadn't gotten there yet...

    change 'towards' to 'to' and it would make sense, though still not being a good sentence...

    to make sense and be a well-written sentence, it would have to be:

     
  4. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I would agree with Maia. Frankly, I would have said the exact same thing.
     
  5. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    I see nothing at all wrong with this. The writer has the right to rely upon the laws of physics and the reader's common sense. Nonfinite verbs are just that: they do not have a time reference and must be interpreted by the reader in any case:

    Moving to the window, he gazed idly into the garden.
    Moving to the window, he tried to conceal his limp.
    Moving to the window, he could no longer reach the telephone.
     
  6. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What if by moving towards the window it causes the blinds to open? Sorta like how automatic doors will open when you approach.

    Though I guess it would be a different sentence entirely.
     
  7. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most of you guys are saying that my example in fact means: While in the process of moving to the window, he drew the blinds. And that would be incorrect.

    Though Mister Macawber says something quite different. And he also makes sense. So I dunno...
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Moving to the window, he drew the blinds.

    It does mean: While he moved to the window, he drew the blinds. This is the way participle phrases are used at the beginning of a sentence. If you check well written novels, you will see this is how they use participle phrases at the beginning of sentences. Check Bujold for example. Such authors rarely write such sentences, however.

    Here is an example from Lois Bujold's The Curse of Chalion



    So Cazaril asked while remembering.

    While he examined the new largesse, he shook his head.

    From Dean Koontz' Odd Thomas

    Penny brought her hand to her ear as she was still cupping it.

    Keep in mind that these authors rarely use this sentence structure.

    Here is one that is a bit strange, and Koontz most likely ment it to mean that after he let go of Penny's hand he . . .

    Here is another where the actions are clearly happening at the same time.

    I hope this helps.
     
  9. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    For you it may suggest that, architectus, but I repeat that a nonfinite verb carries no intrinsic tense. In fact, when I read your excerpts, I do not always sense them as you do.

    Remembering the bath boy’s reaction, Cazaril asked timorously = He asked after he remembered.
    Shaking his head,... he turned to examine = He shook as he turned.
    Cupping her right hand..., Penny brought it to her ear = She cupped it first.
    Letting go of Penny's hand, I leaned into the Firebird = He let go and then he leaned.
    Coughing, venting atomized water..., I splashed noisily = The actions are imultaneous.

    My point is that a simple participle does not itself determine its place in a time sequence. Its literary advantage is that it allows the reader some leeway to exercise his imaginative powers.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Here is a kind of sentence I don't find in a novel.

    Putting the clip in the gun, he fired it.

    I might find

    After putting the clip in the gun, he fired it.

    I'm always careful about starting sentences with a particple.
     
  11. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Leaving it to the reader's common sense to understand that it was the gun that was fired and not the clip, and that one does not pull the trigger as one inserts the cartridges, I find 'after' an unnecessary word.
     
  12. madhoca
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    It could also mean '(On) moving to the window, he drew the blinds', which makes sense, although I'd try not to form a sentence like this too often.
     
  13. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I feel like the preposition 'after' is implied in all of the above sentences. (Except for the shaking of the head one, since he could very well be shaking his head while simultaneously turning)


    I find the sentence, "Putting the clip into the gun, he fired" to seem quite amateurish, like something someone who is not yet aware of the meaning of the past, as apposed to the present or future, would write.

    It would sound MUCH better to simply say, "He put the clip into the gun and fired". Of course, these sentences are very basic. I would expect them to be used only in a passive sense, like if they were at a firing range and there is only one thing he could be shooting at.


    But that's me.
     

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