mixing freely : present participle

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Chaucer was a man of t
he world, mixing freely with all types of mankind;................ .

It is a simple sentence,and mixing here used as present participle. But it seems unnatural to me. If I transfer the simple sentence into compound and complex, are the sentence fine: Chaucer was a man of the world, who mixed freely with all types of mankind.
Chaucer was a man of the world, and he mixed freely with all types of mankind.

I t
hink I have some problems to understand this kind of participle. Could you help me please?


  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The construction is very common but everyone has difficulties in understanding exactly how that sort of participle should be described. :D

    This post [dead link removed - see Edit below] has a set of examples and explanations.

    I have also seen it described as an infinitive form.

    Your understanding of what it means is accurate = Chaucer was a man of the world, who mixed freely with all types of mankind.

    Edit: the link goes to nonexistent page! Here is what was written
    Probably the most common use of the gerund-participle is in the continuous constructions (after a form of 'be': 'am looking', 'was looking'), but the only way to tell for sure is to look at large samples of real text, and count them. You'll find there are many uses that are not so easy to classify. And of course it will vary greatly for different verbs. For example, I looked up 'looking' in the British National Corpus. Among the examples, we find:

    Complement of a verb other than 'be': I just like looking at beautiful books.

    Complement of a preposition: [The viewpoint] can sometimes be reconstructed by looking up into the figure's eyes. Part of the problem that older people face when looking for employment . . . Editing was done by looking down a microscope . . .

    Head of an integrated modifier of a noun phrase: Anyone looking at the photographs of the lift . . . Sometimes when in the evening I lie down with half closed eyes looking at the sunset . . . I could see him looking around.

    Head of a supplementary modifier of a noun phrase (postposed): ‘No,’ replied Jamie, looking at a fly on the table. He saw the Bookman still sitting inside, looking very depressed.

    Head of a supplementary modifier of a noun phrase (preposed): Looking over his shoulder for a second to be sure of his footing, he backed into the water.

    And I'm not sure how to classify this: People are willing to spend money and time looking at the geology of Lake Tocarno. (I think it's a complement of a verb: spend time looking.)

    About half the examples I looked at were continuous, I suppose. English does not have distinct gerunds and present participles: it has only the one verb form, which we can call the gerund-participle or the ing-form. It is a verb, wherever it is used. There is a noun of the same form, which we can call the gerundial noun: it takes noun grammar ('the riding of skateboards': nouns take 'the' but don't have direct objects, unlike the verb in 'riding skateboards'). The gerundial noun is not so common.
    (I think the author was entangledbank, if not, please let me know.)

    Last edited:
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