V-ing There, Part Two

Rather than use the more simple “Jim did this, then Jim did that” sentence form all the time, writers are encouraged to use different structures to keep the reader from getting bored, and the V-ing + V-ed sentence structure is a great way to switch up your prose. But it does have its limits, and can easily be used incorrectly. Here’s a problematic use:

Walking to the end of the footpath, Jim opened the door to the shed.

The problem here is that the continuous action in the first clause cannot occur simultaneously with the second action. Put in simpler terms, Jim can’t open the door to the shed until he has reached the end of the footpath. The first part of the sentence explains that’s his destination, but the V-ing form of the verb at the start (walking) means he hasn’t finished that action yet. Here’s another, more obvious problematic use:

Making her way down the side of the mountain, she climbed into the boat on the river.

The writer is trying to say that she climbed down to the base of the mountain then entered a boat, but the sentence appears to suggest she found a boat on a river on the side of the mountain itself. In order to use the V-ing + V-ed structure correctly, the continuous verb must connect logically with the following verb. Here are a few examples of correct usage:

Walking over to her car, she answered her cellphone.

Thinking of ways to get out of attending the meeting, Ray stumbled on a brilliant plan.

Making their way through the forest, the group looked around for traps.

She can answer the phone while walking, thinking about a plan leads to him figuring one out, and they can look for traps while walking through the forest.

Unless the final (V-ed) verb can happen while the first verb (V-ing) is ongoing, the sentence structure can’t be used. Note that although these are all examples using past tense, the same rule applies to present, e.g. “Standing in the dark, they decide to head home” is fine, whereas “Making their way to the station, they sit and wait for the train” is not.