Present participles in composition

This activity involves working with nonfinite clauses to do some sentence-splitting and sentence-joining. The purpose is to develop your awareness of the different kinds of structures that are available to you as a writer.

Goals

Lesson Plan

Before starting, we'll review the difference between finite and nonfinite clauses. More information can be found in the 'Professional development' page entitled 'Clauses: Finite and nonfinite clauses'. (You can access the Professional development pages in the 'Content menu' on the left.)

Finite clauses are marked for tense, either by using a present tense or a past tense form of a verb:

Nonfinite clauses do not have their tense marked. They contain nonfinite verb forms:

(This is an example of a to-infinitive clause.)

(This is an example of a present participle clause.)

Nonfinite clauses can function in many different ways. In this activity we will work with examples where nonfinite clauses function as Adverbials in larger structures. Sentences involving this kind of Adverbial can often be rewritten as a separate sentence.

A present participle clause has no tensed verb but contains a verb in the present participle form:

Here the verb talking is in the present participle form and the clause has no Subject. Who is doing the talking, and when? We don’t know until we reach the main clause Subject (he) and tensed verb (said).

If we break this sentence up into two complete sentences, it will look something like this:

See if you can spot the changes we had to make in order to split up the sentence:

We had to change the nonfinite present participle form of the verb (talking) to a tensed form (talked), and we had to add a Subject (he) before the verb.

Activity 1 can be found in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The slides in Activity 1 can be displayed on a whiteboard or smart board. These slides follow the process we have just demonstrated: students are given an example sentence with a present participle clause, and are asked to break the single sentence into two sentences. Clicking on the 'Answer' button reveals the solution for each example.

Activity 2 can also be found in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The slides in Activity 2 can be displayed on a whiteboard or smart board. These slides reverse the process in Activity 1. This time students will be given two complete sentences to be rewritten into one sentence by using a present participle clause. As a hint, we have highlighted the verb that should be turned into a present participle form.

After students have made the transformations in each activity, ask them to discuss the different effects that each version might have. Ask the following questions:

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Present participles in composition: Activity 1

Returning to the area after the War, Pissaro largely retained the same fiction about Louveciennes. →

Pissaro returned to the area after the War. He largely retained the same fiction about Louveciennes.

Having fallen completely from view since May, he finds another window suddenly beckoning. →

He has fallen completely from view since May. He finds another window suddenly beckoning.

He paused, strumming on the table with a thick finger. →

He paused. He strummed on the table with a thick finger.

Shouting above the music, Cosmo yelled, ‘That was a bloody stupid mistake.’ →

Cosmo shouted above the music. He yelled, ‘That was a bloody stupid mistake.’

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Present participles in composition: Activity 2

I arrived just before lunch. I looked for Harry Frampton in the dining room. →

Arriving just before lunch, I looked for Harry Frampton in the dining room.

The ZR-1 looked little different from the normal Corvette. It performed like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. →

Looking little different from the normal Corvette, the ZR-1 performed like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.

In the dead infertile weeks of the new year he became physically weak. He slept for long periods, late into the afternoon. →

In the dead infertile weeks of the new year he became physically weak, sleeping for long periods, late into the afternoon.

He is one of the beautiful people himself. He has these high standards. →

Being one of the beautiful people himself, he has these high standards.

Cassie crouched forward. She held her arms tightly around her as if suffering from stomach pain. →

Cassie crouched forward, holding her arms tightly around her as if suffering from stomach pain.

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