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Present Participial Phrases
A present participial phrase begins with a present participle (the ing form of a verb) and any objects or modifiers. Present participial phrase function adjectivally to describe a noun or a pronoun.
1) A present participial phrase can come after the noun or pronoun it describes.
--The water dripping from the table will damage the floor if it is not cleaned up.
--The girl playing shortstop is also a star basketball player.
--The teacher offered extra help to everyone struggling to understand the
The above examples have present participial phrases that are essential. This means that the present participial phrases provide information that is necessary to understand the subjects they modify. Essential present participial phrases are not set off by commas.
On the other hand, non-essential present participial phrases must be set off by commas. Non-essential present participial phrases provide information that is not necessary to understand the subjects they modify.
--Xavier, sprinting to the bus stop, dropped his backpack.
--Maddie, struggling in the water, reached for a rope that her sister threw.
--Stuart, playing video games all night, neglected his homework.
2) A non-essential present participial phrase that is followed by a comma can begin a sentence. The present participial phrase must describe the subject of the independent clause that follows.
--Sprinting to the bus stop, Xavier dropped his backpack.
--Struggling in the water, Maddie reached for a rope that her sister threw.
--Playing video games all night, Stuart neglected his homework.
When beginning sentences with present participial phrases, writers and speakers need to be careful to avoid misplaced and dangling modifiers.
--Sprinting to the bus stop, Xavier's backpack fell.
According to the above sentence, Xavier's backpack was sprinting to the bus stop.
--Struggling in the water, Maddie's sister threw Maddie a rope.
According to the above sentence, Maddie's sister was struggling in the water.
--Playing video games all night, Stuart's homework never got finished.
According to the above sentence, Stuart's homework was playing video games.