Writing Tools: Participles Jazz Up Sentences, Pep Up Writer’s Thoughts

Writing Tools: Participles Jazz Up Sentences, Pep Up Writer’s Thoughts

In the ash pit was a heap of potatoes roasting. – Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

Arup ChakrabortyUpdated: Saturday, February 10, 2024, 11:28 PM IST
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Writing Tools: Participles Jazz Up Sentences, Pep Up Writer’s Thoughts |

The participles are important, because they beautify a sentence, as well as make its meaning clear. Nonetheless, before employing participles, an author must know how to use it. British author Charles Dickens taught us how to use a participle to jazz up a sentence. These injuries having been comforted externally, with patches of pickled brown paper, and Mr Pecksniff having comforted internally, with some stiff brandy and water, the eldest Miss Pecksniff sat down to make the tea

– Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

The participles are those forms of the verb which partake of the nature of both verbs and adjectives. There are two participles: the present participle and the past participle – speaking, spoken, doing, done. There are a few grammarians who have objected to the terms present and past. They say neither is capable of expressing the time sphere of an action or state. This is done by other elements of the sentence, mostly by the (finite verb of the) predicate, sometimes by an adverbial adjunct.

Ergo the time sphere of the action denoted by “walking” is, respectively, expressed by “meet,” “met,” “shall meet” in “Walking home I meet (met, shall meet) my friend. The adverbial adjunct – some time ago – indicates the time sphere of the action expressed by “erected in a column A column, erected some time ago, stands in front of the building.” Likewise, the terms active, instead of present, and passive, instead of past, which are used by a few grammarians, are equally open to objection, says Hendrik Poutsma.

The term passive, can hardly be applied to the participle used in the perfect tense of an intransitive verb as in I have walked a long way. Truly speaking, the terms imperfect and perfect would be quite suitable as far as the simple forms (walking, walked) are concerned. They are descriptive of the two characters or aspects implied by these verbs. But, as they are currently applied to express tense dictions in the finite verb, their employment causes uncertainty to their nomenclature.

They also entail difficulties in naming such complex forms as “having been comforted” which we see in Dickens’s quote. It seems, therefore, advisable to retain the time-honoured terms – present and past. The present participle does not express tense. Nor does it do so to describe the voice when it is used attributively or when it becomes part of an undeveloped clause that has the value of a relative clause, an attributive adnominal clause introduced by a relative pronoun. The police recovered the ornaments stolen from a shop – In the sentence, a relative pronoun is implied.

The police recovered the ornaments which were stolen from a shop. “Stolen” is the third form of the verb or participle of “steal.” (box) Distinction of tense The distinction of tense is not always expressed. The imperfect present participle sometimes has to do the job for the perfect. Apparently, this applies chiefly to complex sentences. The relation of the participle clause to its head sentence is one of pure time on such sentences. Passing through wall of mud and stone, they found a cheerful company assembled – Charles Dickens, Christmas Carol In the sentence, though it indicates a past event, the tense implied. The author wants to say – having passed.

Active present participle

The active present participle is often used in a passive meaning – Hendrik Poutsma. It happens when the present participle modifies the subject of a sentence with (there) is or its variations. I guess there was some mischief contriving.

– Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Sheets of ham were there, cooking on the gridiron, half- a-dozen eggs were there poaching in the frying-pan – Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit It sometimes modifies the object of verbs of perceiving and occasionally other verbs that may take an accusative with infinitive. I can’t say how I knew it was my dear, dear mother’s coffin that they went to look at. I had never heard one making

– Charles Dickens, David Copperfield                        

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