2

See this site:

2: We can't use this kind of participle clause if we're talking about one finished action which is not repeated:

  • Not: Who was the girl dropping the coffee?

Instead, we use a normal relative clause:

  • Who was the girl who dropped the coffee?

Could you explain "We can't use this kind of participle clause if we're talking about one finished action which is not repeated"?

What does "one finished action which is not repeated" mean?

There is no way to understand what the author was talking about.

  • Do you understand what a participle clause and a relative clause are? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 10 '16 at 7:20
  • @P.E.Dant Of course, I do – Tom Sep 10 '16 at 7:24
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    @P.E.Dant, what does "one finished action which is not repeated" mean? – Tom Sep 10 '16 at 7:26
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    Do you see a participle clause in first sentence? The action of dropping the coffee is completed, so we use the relative clause as in the second sentence. What about this do you not understand? She doesn't go on spilling coffee until the end of time. She is finished with spilling coffee (for now, at least) so we use dropped and not dropping. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 10 '16 at 7:27
  • "is not repeated" mean? – Tom Sep 10 '16 at 7:29
1

The continuous is used with actions that recur (actions that "repeat") or with actions that take some time to run their course.

What's your son Joe doing this summer to earn money?
--He's delivering The Evening Bulletin.

The faucet was dripping.

She was singing the national anthem when it began to rain cats and dogs.

Joe does not deliver newspapers around the clock. He delivers them daily.

The faucet was not running continuously. It was going drip-drip-drip. The action recurs.

Singing is continuous. The song starts and goes until it's over.

The tea kettle was whistling.

In the original example quoted, a girl spills her coffee. When we spill coffee, it's normally an instantaneous thing. The cup gets knocked over. But if she were slowly pouring out her coffee into someone's lap, then we could say "the girl who was spilling her coffee..."

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