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I've heard that participle is used to qualify a noun or pronoun. Here are two sentences:

  1. Hearing the noise, the boy woke up.
  2. Taking the pen,the boy ran.

source: http://www.englishgrammar.org/participles/

In both of these sentences, participle(hearing and taking)has been used before a noun.

My questions:

  1. How does "hearing' and 'taking' qualify the noun?
  2. Do they qualify 'noise' and 'pen' because participles are before 'noise'and 'pen'?
  3. I don't know how participles can qualify a pronoun, could you provide some examples?
  • You can find this meaning of qualify in most dictionaries, I believe. Here's one in Macmillan Dictionary: qualify: 5 [transitive] linguistics a word that qualifies another word gives more information about it. For example, in “the dog barked furiously,” the adverb “furiously” qualifies the verb “barked.” – Damkerng T. Oct 1 '16 at 12:25
  • @Damkerng,Thank you for helping to know it,I looked up it in dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/qualify too and found this meaning too "to limit the strength or meaning of a statement: I'd like to qualify my criticisms of the school's failings, by adding that it's a very happy place.  [ T ] SPECIALIZED language In grammar, a word or phrase that qualifies another word or phrase limits its meaning and makes it less general: In the sentence "He walked quickly along the road", "quickly" and "along the road" qualify "walked". – yubraj Oct 1 '16 at 13:10
  • @someone, I don't know what downvote mean, why there's downvote here in the question? – yubraj Oct 1 '16 at 14:51
1

You understand qualify correctly—modify is the more usual term—but your "rule" needs some adjustment.

  1. Hearing and taking do not modify the noun boy. (I will say more about what they do modify at the end.)
  2. As present participles, hearing and taking may act as adjectives, so they could modify boy. Present participles without following complements are taken to modify a noun if they are set in the ordinary adjective position, between the determiners (if there are any) and the noun. This is quite common with the present participles of intransitive verbs like run and listen:

    the running boy ... ≈ the boy who is (or was) running the listening boy ... ≈ the boy who is (or was) listening. Compare an ordinary adjective, angry: the angry boy

    You will occasionally find the present participles of transitive verbs like hear and take in this adjective position, but it's unusual with the participles of most transitive verbs. These participles are usually the heads of phrases with following direct objects, and any adjective or participle which is followed by an object or complement or modifier must be placed immediately after the nouns in order to qualify it:

    The boy hearing the noise ... ≈ the boy who hears (or heard) the noise
    The boy taking the pen ... ≈ the boy who takes (or took) the pen —compare
    The boy angry with his parents

  3. Ordinarily, adjectives (including participles) cannot modify personal pronouns. This is because a noun and its determiners, modifiers and complements form a closed entity, a noun phrase—any modifiers have to be placed inside that noun phrase. But what a personal pronoun 'stands for' and acts as is not a noun but an entire noun phrase; you can't add any determiners or modifiers, because they would be outside the noun phrase:

    the it
    an angry him

How then are we to understand the participle phrases in your sentences?

Hearing the noise, the boy woke up.
Taking the pen, the boy ran.

There's a clue in the commas here. These aren't just mechanical marks to clarify the structure: they reflect an actual separation in speech, which marks the participle phrases as supplements—something outside the main clause and added to it.

These participle phrases are in fact distinct clauses. They aren't independent clauses like the boy woke up or the boy ran, because they don't have finite verbs inflected for tense, person and number. They aren't full clauses, either, because they don't have explicit subjects; we infer that their subjects are the same as the subjects of the clause to which they are subordinated—in both cases, the boy. So these clauses don't "modify" the boy; rather, the boy is the "anchor" which relates them to the main clause.

If these participle clauses may be said to "modify" anything, it is the main clause itself. Such clauses typically express something which causes the action of the main clause (as in your sentences), or some purpose which the action of the main clause is directed toward, or the manner in which the action of the main clause is performed.

Hearing the noise, the boy woke up.
Hoping to escape, the boy fled.
Moving stealthily, the boy snatched the pen.


When a present participle of a transitive verb is used this way it usually has a somewhat different meaning. Often the participle has 'forked' off from the verb as an independent adjective. Hearing, for instance, can be used as an independent adjective: a hearing boy is not a boy who hears something but a boy who is capable of hearing—a boy who is not deaf.

  • I consider this answer as highly advanced.I understand that you fully tried to answer me.And it's common to have complex words used in an advanced answer of a grammatical question as it's in your answer.Being just a learner,It's more difficult to understand some grammatical words for me too. – yubraj Oct 2 '16 at 14:03
  • @stoneyB.I'm again asking!!! 1.Taking the pen,the boy ran. Does the participle"taking' behaves like adjective here? Is it true that the verb "taking" as a participle describes the object "the pen" behaving just like adjective.Am in the right point? – yubraj Oct 2 '16 at 14:24
  • @yubrajsharma It does not behave like an adjective here. This is the equivalent of two sentences "The boy took the pen. Then the boy ran", but the first is subordinated to the second. – StoneyB Oct 3 '16 at 1:17
  • did you go through the linked grammar content englishgrammar.org/participles Is this writing wrong ?Why did he write like this? – yubraj Oct 3 '16 at 6:54
  • Here is also another website describing participle in the same way english-for-students.com/Participle.html – yubraj Oct 3 '16 at 7:29

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