1. Subology
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    Subology New Member

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    Example sentance

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Subology, Dec 18, 2012.

    I'm writing in past tense. Below is a random (and first draft) example of a sentence from my work:

    And she turned, lifting one foot of the floor and spinning about on the tip of her heal, her hair blowing out to the side as she spun.


    Now, the first bit is fine, and in past tense. But, the end of the sentence, shown below, is in the present tense.

    her hair blowing out to the side as she spun.

    Is this OK? Does it make sense, when coupled to the rest of the past tense sentence?

    Or should it be:

    And she turned, lifting one foot of the floor and spinning about on the tip of her heal, her hair blew out to the side as she spun.

    I find having the entirety of every sentence in past-tense a bit exhausting. Like the whole thing is chronological, and a list of what happened.
     
  2. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Well, take this with a grain of salt as I have a bad sinus headache...

    First, I'm having a hard time getting past the two spelling errors (not to mention the one in the title of your post). It should be "off the floor" and "tip of her heel."

    That being said, do you need the hair part at all? If so, perhaps you can use a word other than "blew" or "blowing out" - that particular word just makes me think of a gunshot scene!

    And just out of curiosity - why are you writing in past tense?
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, it isn't. It contains participles, which are a verb form, but does not contain a verb in the sense of the structure of the sentence. You only have one sentential verb, "turned," and that is in past tense. Apart from that and the subject pronoun "she," the rest is modifier phrases acting as adverbs (How is she turning? with one foot lifted. Pivoting on the other heel. With her hair streaming out).
     
  4. GazingAbyss
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    GazingAbyss Member

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    Technically it's right (except for the two spelling errors 'of/off' and 'heal/heel' mentioned by hippocampus) but it's awkward. The second version is wrong though.

    I'd personally go with And she turned, lifting one foot off the floor and spinning on the tip of her heel. Her hair blew out to the side as she spun. I fixed the spelling errors and took out the about, but that's just my preference.

    Also, it depends on the context, but starting a sentence with 'and' is awkward as well, more often than not.
     
  5. F.E.
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    F.E. Member

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    My two cents, :)
    Let me first comment on your second example, #2, which would be considered to be ungrammatical due to that use of a comma splice:
    2. And she turned, lifting one foot off the floor and spinning about on the tip of her heel, her hair blew out to the side as she spun.

    In the above example, the two main clauses have been underlined and the primary tensed verbs have been bolded ("turned", "blew", "spun").

    These are the two sentences that are being spliced together in your #2 example:
    • And she turned, lifting one foot off the floor and spinning about on the tip of her heel.
    • Her hair blew out to the side as she spun.

    Note that both of those smaller parts can stand alone as sentences. This is because they each contain an independent clause (which are underlined); in this specific example, each main clause (which is underlined) happens to also fulfill the requirements to be an independent clause.
    .
    .
    Now let me go into some depth as to what is going on in your first example, #1, which is fine as a sentence, w.r.t. grammar. :)
    #1. And she turned, lifting one foot of the floor and spinning about on the tip of her heel, her hair blowing out to the side as she spun.

    Each verb in that sentence has been underlined. Those verbs are:
    turned
    lifting
    spinning
    blowing
    spun​

    Only two of those verbs are "tensed" (w.r.t. the primary tense system in today's standard English), and they are in past tense:
    turned
    spun​

    The other three verbs are not "tensed", and thus, they are neither in present tense nor in past tense; that is, they are untensed:
    lifting
    spinning
    blowing​

    Those three untensed verbs have the verb form commonly known as the present participle verb form. (The present participle is also sometimes referred to as the "-ing participle".) Note that although the term present participle itself has the word "present" in it, that does not mean that it has the present tense--because it doesn't. (The historical reason why the term is worded that way is that supposedly the word "present" means that the verb construction headed by that participle borrows the time or tense from a matrix clause; and so, it is in the same present time as that in the matrix clause.)

    Your #1 example sentence has two tensed verbs. One tensed verb (" turned") is used in that one main clause, while the other tensed verb ("spun") is used in a subordinate clause.

    For past-tense narrative fiction, the main clauses are usually headed by a verb in past tense. Your #1 example sentence has one main clause, and that main clause is headed by "turned" which is a past tense verb form. So that sentence is fine. :)

    Now this is the situation that your sentence is describing (assuming the prose is in past-tense narrative fiction):
    • There is one time slice being referenced. It is the time when she is turning. While she is turning, she is also lifting her foot off the floor and she is also spinning on the heel of a foot, and also, her hair is blowing to the side as she is spinning.

    That is all occurring at the same time during that one situation. Note that, in this case, the situation's referenced time is determined by the tensed verb in the main clause. That main clause is the matrix clause for the subordinate clauses. So the actions described by the subordinate clauses are all tied to the main clause's time. Everything is happening at the same time. That is:
    1. And she turned, -- matrix clause (main clause)
    2. lifting one foot off the floor -- subordinate clause
    3. and spinning about on the tip of her heel, -- subordinate clause
    4. her hair blowing out to the side as she spun. -- subordinate clause

    But perhaps that was not what you intended? Perhaps you wanted some actions to be concurrent and some actions to be sequential, with some of them occurring right after a previous one? If so, then you might want to restructure your sentence.

    Hopefully this post will be helpful.
     
  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I agree with FE completely, the tenses are fine. The typos are distracting. But there is another question plaguing me - how do you spin on the tip of your heel? Do you mean toes? Or are we talking about a truly gifted dancer with a double jointed ankle? And where exactly is the tip of your heel?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    greg's point is well taken... it doesn't sound physically possible, except for maybe a break dancer...

    and a heel doesn't have a 'tip'...

    cog is right, the sentence is all past tense, despite the presence of participles...
     
  8. .Mark
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    .Mark Member

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    I'm not sure your version is better, because you've interrupted the thought by inserting that period.
     

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