Writing Exercises 24-31





Closely resembling the gerund (at least, in the eyes of the amateur) is the present participle, which is also formed by adding -ing to the base of the verb, e.g., pulling, running, skiing, jumping.  Their differences, however, are significant.  The gerund, you will recall, can be used only as a substitute for a noun; the present participle, on the other hand, may be used only as an adjective.  It functions strictly as a modifier of nouns or of pronouns.  Here are some typical examples:


The ball and Dickerson somehow met in a diving, falling, desperate instant--just six inches inbounds--and USC was on its way to another Rose Bowl.  (Dan Jenkins, Sports Illustrated)


The prose style of Swift is unique, an irrefrangible instrument of clear, animated, animating and effective thought.  (Herbert Read, English Prose Style)


Notice how Read juxtaposes the past participle animated and the present participle animating to convey vitality, the shift in verb tenses creating additional forward momentum.  Of course, past participles may be used just as effectively for frustrating or blocking the action since they suggest passivity.


Seduction withheld, deferred, foiled--at any rate never accomplished--produces many of Dickens's most interesting and complex characters.  (Angus Wilson)


The present participle -ing activates, the past participle -ed consolidates.  Here is an example using participial phrases:


Something dim and far removed, buried in the depths of immemorial time, stirring beneath the surface, coming to life, coming up at last, moved him toward his destiny.  (C. S. Lewis)


Again, see how the shift from the past participial phrase to the present participial phrase is consistent w. the content; syntax and structure mirror one another, reinforce one another.  Here are two additional samples making extensive use of right-branching participial modification:


She sat quite still for a long time, remembering the smell of Francis's cologne on Celia's body, recalling the ambiguities of Celia's speech ever since and Francis's oblique contradictory replies when she talked to him about what was in her heart, remembering with bitter shock his face and his words, "Forty is pretty old to have children."  (Richard Condon)


They came ambling and stumbling, tumbling and capering, kilting their gowns for leap frog, holding one another back, shaken with deep fast laughter, smacking one another behind and laughing at their rude malice, calling to one another by familiar nicknames, protesting w. sudden dignity at some rough usage, whispering two and two behind their hands.  (Ernest Hemingway)

EXERCISE 24 -- Write 1 sentence using present participles.  Imitate the Dan Jenkins example.


EXERCISE 25 -- Write 1 sentence using present participial phrases.


EXERCISE 26 -- Write 1 sentence using past participles.  Imitate the Angus Wilson example.


EXERCISE 27 -- Write 1 sentence using past participial phrases.


EXERCISE 28 -- Write 1 sentence juxtaposing a past and a present participle.  Strive to activate forward momentum.  Imitate the Herbert Read example.


EXERCISE 29 -- Write 1 short paragraph blending past and present participial phrases where needed and where appropriate.  Form and content should mirror one another.  Imitate the C. S. Lewis example.


EXERCISE 30 -- Write 2 short paragraphs in imitation of the Richard Condon example.  In the first paragraph, use present participial phrases in a series of right-branching modifiers.  In the second paragraph, use past participial phrases in a series of right-branching modifiers.  Do not just string the phrases together!  The two paragraphs should be internally coherent, unified, logical, and spatially and chronologically ordered.


EXERCISE 31 -- Write 1 short paragraph in imitation of the Ernest Hemingway example.


Compiled by Jesse Easley (2005).