1. mlkdan
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    mlkdan New Member

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    Present tense after past tense in descriptive sentences

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mlkdan, Nov 13, 2012.

    Sorry for the strange description in the title, but I've been out of school too long to remember what this is called. However, in a recent proofread of some writing I did, I realized I do it a lot, and I can't decide whether it's better to leave it in or not. I really don't even know what it's called, but I see lots of professional authors use it. Here's some examples.

    Jimmy yanked hard on the pole, loosening it from the rock.

    Jimmy yanked hard on the pole and loosened it from the rock.

    A bird exploded out from the shaft, zooming across the room and knocking over a pile of books.

    A bird exploded out from the shaft, then zoomed across the room and knocked over a pile of books.



    Which is "better?" And why? What's the logic behind stuff like this? I can't decide for the life of me and it's driving me nuts.
     
  2. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    >Jimmy yanked hard on the pole, loosening it from the rock.

    I think this is called a participle phrase. They are ok if not overdone, and fit the rhythm and pacing.

    They imply simultaneity with the other actions in the sentence, and it is a common mistake to use them for sequential actions. Thus your rock example is good, but the bird example probably is not.
     
  3. mlkdan
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    mlkdan New Member

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    I see! I get it. Thanks!!
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that... you have to be very careful when using an 'ing' verb like that... too many new writers do what you did with the bird sentence example, which make no sense, as b93 so ably noted...
     
  5. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    For your example above, think of it as a simpler way of saying, "Jimmy yanked hard on the pole; he was loosening it from the rock."

    In your bird example,
    It would be best to leave it as separate sentences because of the number of verbs-- exploded, zooming, knocking over. Further, the trouble with a sentence such as this is that It can be said as one more easily with verb choice. Perhaps the verb "exploded" could be removed in a case like this.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but i can't make any sense out of this... first of all, it isn't separate sentences, it's only a single one, so how can the op 'leave it' as separate?... and the rest, re 'verb choice' etc. is too confusing... can you explain what you mean in more detail, please?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I can't get past the exploding bird without losing it.

    I can just hear the CSI techs: "Not sure exactly what happened here, but I suspect fowl play."
     
    TDFuhringer likes this.

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