I'm learning the -ing clauses and I have a question about an explanation on this website:

(1) When one action happens before another action, we use having (done) for the first action, for example, "Having finished her work, she went home."

(2) If one short action follows another short action, you can use the simple -ing form (doing instead of having done) for the first action, for example, "Taking a key out of his pocket, he opened the door."

My question: Is it optional when we use "having" or "doing" in both cases (1) and (2)? Is "Finishing her work, she went home" possible, too? Or, are the two actions of "finishing work" and "going home" not short enough?

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    'Finishing her work' more strongly suggests the last few minutes say, so I wouldn't use it in place of 'Having finished her work'. 'Finishing early, she went home' does work for me, though. And I wouldn't use 'Having taken ...' for the pretty punctive "Taking a key out of his pocket ...'. Aug 25, 2016 at 22:58

2 Answers 2


You can say "Finishing her dinner, she left from the table." This implies that she took one more bite of food before leaving her seat. You could also say, "Having finished her dinner, she left from the table." They imply the same thing but paint too different images. When you say "Finishing" it sounds more rush or like it was quickly followed by something else, which is why it work with the key example. "Having finished." sounds more procedural.


This is not about one action simply happening before another, and “short” actions have no place in English. "Taking a key out of his pocket, he opened the door" does describe two distinct actions but they are interdependent and form parts of a single, continuous process. Opening the door with the key still in his pocket would be impossible; taking out the key without a door, pointless.

Staying with the door, “having taken…” instead of simply “taking” would be long-winded if it directly preceded the opening of the door in time as well as in the narrative. “Having earlier taken a key out of his pocket and left it on the ledge, he now used it to open the door” would give “having” a purpose, expressing a separation in time.

"If one short action follows another…” might just mean “one distinct action…” but the example negates that suggestion and “one action shortly follows another” seems even less likely.

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