Using present participle to start a clause in a sentence


I wrote :

In our approach, we rely mainly on the page content and simulate the way a human user scans a web page for specific data.

Then I thought I may can write it as:

In our approach, we rely mainly on the page content, simulating the way a human user scans a web page for specific data.

I don't know if the second sentence is correct and conveys my meaning or not?! I even am not sure about its structure, but as I read similar sentences I feel it could be correct. Is it correct? What is the structure of such clauses? When can I use them?


Posted 2015-09-06T14:40:07.723

Reputation: 8 443

If you change "page content" to "visible page content", then the second clause "simulating the way a human user scans ..." makes clear sense and is grammatically OK. If you're making use of non-visible content, then you're not simulating human reading, right? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-09-06T14:52:53.303

@TRomano yes I rely on visible page content, but I thought "page content" conveys that is visible. not?! By the way, I also like to construct more such sentences by knowing their structure and usage – Ahmad – 2015-09-06T15:02:43.697

@TRomano I wrote "the page content", now I should change it to "the visible page content" or just "visible page content"? – Ahmad – 2015-09-06T15:06:04.223

A web page can have both visible and invisible content. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-09-06T15:06:24.983

You do not need "the" but there's no harm in using it: We rely on (the) visible page content... – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-09-06T15:07:20.130

Wait now, dear close voter, how is this "too broad"? Please read what's being asked more carefully. – M.A.R. – 2015-09-06T17:27:28.897

BTW, 'simulating' in your second sentence is not a gerund, it's a present participle. – Victor Bazarov – 2015-09-06T19:17:03.610

@VictorBazarov thanks but anything it be, what has been the actual sentence? – Ahmad – 2015-09-06T19:22:53.337

I like the second (with the participle clause instead of "and simulate"), and TRomano's suggestion to add "visible". And you don't need the comma after 'approach' either. – Victor Bazarov – 2015-09-06T19:27:41.040

Both seem fine to me. There is a subtle difference in that the first connects the act of simulating to the subject: "we ... simulate". In the second, it seems like the simulating is more an aspect of the way the content is laid out. – Todd Wilcox – 2015-09-17T12:48:37.710



Both versions are OK grammatically, but the meanings are different. Assuming you want to express a connection between the first and last halves of the sentence:

The first version, simplified, reads "We rely and we simulate." with possibly no connection at all between the two (undesirable/awkward). In the second version, "We rely, simulating..." the simulating phrase modifies the first part of the sentence, which is a direct connection indeed, as intended. It sounds quite natural and has the intended meaning.

By the way, "data" is a strange word in English. It is plural in Latin, but it is so often used like a singular noun in AmE that most people think it is like "information tonnage". It would not make sense to use "specific tonnage" to refer to a few specific items in a load of items. Instead I have seen "data points" or even "datums" (is this a "real" word?) for this use case.

Stew C

Posted 2015-09-06T14:40:07.723

Reputation: 914


Both sentence have subtly different meanings.

In our approach, we rely mainly on the page content, simulating the way a human user scans a web page for specific data.

This sentence can be read at least two different ways:

  • Our approach is to rely mainly on the page content (with everything after the comma modifying the Page Content we rely mainly on.)
  • Our approach is simulating the way a human user scans a web page for specific data (thus making "we rely mainly on the page content" Parenthetic.)

The path of least resistance is to interpret this sentence to mean that your approach is simulating the way human users scan a web page for specific data (by relaying mainly on page content.)

The first (and proper) sentence is a Compound Sentence held together by a Coordinating Conjunction:

In our approach, we:

  1. rely mainly on the page content and
  2. simulate the way a human user scans a web page for specific data.


Posted 2015-09-06T14:40:07.723

Reputation: 1 682

If I'm splitting hairs, I do apologize. The point is that the compound sentence leaves no room for doubt. – lurker – 2015-12-31T01:38:28.943


I affirm that both are acceptable, and I see the second as slightly more sophisticated.

"Simulating" is a gerund: a noun converted to a verb with the addition of "ing". It starts the gerund phrase "simulating the way ...".

Grammatically, gerund phrases count as nouns, so your sentence breaks down to: We rely on the page content, [large compound noun].

I.e. your gerund phrase becomes an item in the list of things on which you rely.

G. Ann - SonarSource Team

Posted 2015-09-06T14:40:07.723

Reputation: 3 371

Downvote with no comment? Aren't you going to tell us what's wrong with it? – G. Ann - SonarSource Team – 2016-02-18T12:26:54.790

Simulating is a great quality; here it is gerund. I did it simulating your example; here it is participle. In my opinion, if the first example is any indication, to regard 'simulating' as gerund is to make the rest portion a run-on sentence and distortion of meaning, is an extra. – Barid Baran Acharya – 2016-02-18T16:48:40.800

I agree with the downvote. This -ing form is definitely not nominal. See my comment further below. – Gustavson – 2017-02-10T10:51:22.283


The first sentence is a compound sentence and 'WE' is the subject of coordinate clause beginning with "simulate the way, and, of course, there is a subordinate clause beginning with(as/by which/in the like manner)a human user... data. It means:

Our approach is to show you the page content and how to navigate it as like a human user.

Before we embark on analysing the second option, the '—+ing' form used here is a participle. Simply put "+ing" form of verb discharge four functions depending on usage.

• to make tense

• to work as noun

• to work as adjective

• to work as pure noun(the +—ing + of)

In our example it is a present participle (adjective). Such +—ing formed participles have no subject. It mostly has its subject in the preceding clause to which it refers.

•The boy(who is) standing at the gate, is my brother.

But such construction often takes us unawares. As —

•I saw a dead cow walking along the street.

We know how to rearrange the sentence meaningfully. Begin the sentence with ' walking along the stree,'.

In the second sentence simulating refers to ' page content', and, thus, drastically changing the meaning. I think we have somehow make you understand the use of participle phrase. Would It not be better to place "simulating... data" after " in our approach"? In that case both the sentences mean exactly the same.

Barid Baran Acharya

Posted 2015-09-06T14:40:07.723

Reputation: 942

In the sentence at issue "simulating" is not adjectival. It does not refer to "page" but just expresses a simultaneous action. At most, it'd be adverbial. Nor is "walking along the street" adjectival in the sentence "I saw a dead cow walking along the street." The dead cow was not obviously walking! Compare with: Walking along the street (adverbial), I saw a dead cow lying on the side of the road (adjectival). – Gustavson – 2017-02-10T10:47:57.967