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VERBALS : What are Verbals? : What are Gerunds? : What are Participles? : Examples of Using Participles : What are Infinitives? : Errors in Using Verbals and Gerunds

Errors in Infinitives, Participles and Gerunds

Errors in Infinitives, Participles and Gerunds(1) Split infinitives lack emphasis because the adverb is submerged and deprived of force — to fix this problem, we should consider the infinitive as one word:

Weak: "He was ordered to personally review the safety guidelines."

Better: "He was ordered personally to review the safety guidelines."

Or: He was ordered to review the safety guidelines personally.

Weak: To really understand the works of Stephen King one must know the author himself.

Better: Really to understand the works of Stephen King one must know the author himself.

(2) Repeat the infinitive sign to in a series of infinitives:

Faulty: "He began to advertise on the Internet, build a website, and invite customers to his Facebook page."

Better: "He began to advertise on the Internet, to build a website, and to invite customers to his Facebook page."

Errors in Participles and Gerunds

We use the present participle (the verb form ending in ing) either as an adjective or as a verbal noun. In the latter case, we refer to it as a gerund. It is easy to become confused of the two uses. The past participle, in its use as an adjective, also causes trouble.

When placed at the beginning of a sentence, a participle (verbal adjective) must modify the subject of the sentence; if it does not, we call it a "dangling participle."

Wrong: Having eaten pizza for dinner, a glass of soda satisfied my taste immensely.

Right: Having eaten pizza for dinner, I enjoyed a glass of soda.

Wrong: Being an avid reader of horror stories, I have read books by Stephen King regularly for years.

Right: Being an avid reader of horror stories, Steven King is the author that I have read regularly for years.

Better: As Stephen King is one of my favorite horror writers, I have read his books regularly for years.

When placed later in the sentence, the participle is faulty and "dangling" if it does not modify a noun or other substantive.

Faulty: There will be 381 miles of gravel roads and 405 miles of concrete, making a total of 786.

Better: The company will build 786 miles of road (381 miles of gravel and 405 miles of concrete).

Faulty: He came home partly tired, caused by working too many hours at his job.

Better: He came home partly tired because he worked too many hours at his job.

Faulty: More than a hundred writers attended the writer's conference, not counting the speakers.

Better: More than a hundred writers attended the writer's conference, and this total does not include the speakers.

Examples of More Errors

(1) When we use thus or thereby to introduce the participle, we must modify a substantive with the participle to avoid the "dangling participle."

Faulty: Any student in tenth grade is eligible, thus creating many job opportunities.

Better: Because any student in tenth grade is eligible, many job opportunities are available.

Faulty: Employee paychecks will be deposited at the local bank, thereby facilitating quick payment.

Better: Employee paychecks will be deposited at the local bank to facilitate quick payment.

(2) The absolute phrase, which is an attempt to use a participle in the place of a clause or sentence, is weak, straggling, and lacking in emphasis.

Faulty: Rodger Federer easily beat Rafael Nadal, the score being 6-4, 6-3.

Better: Rodger Federer easily beat Rafael Nadal by a score of two sets.

Faulty: Funeral services were held at 8:30 a.m., the Rev. Raymond Carlo officiating.

Better: Funeral services were held at 8:30 a.m. and the Rev. Raymond Carlo officiated.

Better: Funeral services were held at 8:30 a.m. by the Rev. Raymond Carlo.

(3) In the matter of time, the participle must correspond with the verb.

Faulty: He left home on Sunday, arriving in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Better: He left home on Sunday and arrived in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Faulty: It is a dilapidated hotel, being opened in 1981.

Better: It is a dilapidated hotel, having been opened in 1981.

(4) We should use participles in places where relative clauses would be stronger and clearer.

Hazy: Those arriving early will be asked to leave.

Clearer: Those who arrive early will be asked to leave.

Hazy: Any college graduate registered in any university offering instruction in journalism is eligible.

Clearer: Any college graduate is eligible who is registered in any university that offers instruction in journalism.

(5) A noun modifying a gerund should be in the possessive case

Correct: The signal sounded without the fireman noticing it.

(6) With the passive voice, a gerund or participial phrase causes difficulty if the noun or other substantive is not expressed or is not the subject of the sentence

Wrong: In estimating startup costs, the overhead must always be considered.

Correct: In estimating startup costs, sole proprietors must consider overhead.

Wrong: In talking to his mother recently, she told me about his accident.

Correct: In talking to me recently, his mother told me about his accident.

Correct: In talking to his mother recently, I heard her version of his accident.

(7) Do not use gerunds (verbal nouns) in parallel construction with nouns.

Wrong: Designing, installing, and sometimes talking about car tires were among his duties.

Correct: The designing and installing car tires and sometimes talking about car parts were among his duties.

Correct: Designing and installing car tires and sometimes talking about car parts, he found his duties varied.

Correct: Designing and installing car tires and sometimes talking about car parts were among his duties.

(8) Participles (verbal adjectives) that are used when gerunds (verbal nouns) are needed cause confusion.

Awkward: Behind her work are fifteen years of experience writing for magazines.

Clearer: Behind her work are fifteen years of experience in writing for magazines.

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VERBALS : What are Verbals? : What are Gerunds? : What are Participles? : Examples of Using Participles : What are Infinitives? : Errors in Using Verbals and Gerunds