1) Dragging the basket out of the fire and lifting the pekingese by the scruff, he kissed it full on its tiny, pink lips.

As far as I know participle phrases are simultaneous actions. But in the sentence number (1) why did the writer use participles as sequential actions?

Suppose the sentence number (1) is correct , then what would be the difference if I use (comma) instead of "and "? the sentence as follows :

1) Dragging the basket out of the fire, lifting the pekingese by the scruff, he kissed it full on its tiny, pink lips.

Please explain in detail. I am having a tough time understanding those.

  • 2
    It's at the very least stylistically clumsy in your context, and in most structurally similar contexts it would simply be ungrammatical. For the general case you should probably stick to joining the two participle phrases with and. This doesn't necessarily imply anything about whether the two (continuous) actions are simultaneous or consecutive - that's a matter of context and pragmatic logic. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 14:23
  • 1
    FumbleFingers has it right; it's not really correct to say "participle phrases are simultaneous" as a flat rule. You have to interpret the degree of simultaneity from context.
    – stangdon
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:17
  • There would be no problem with either if you were not referring only to the subject of a single clause. A sentence like "Dragging the basket out of the fire, lifting the pekingese by the scruff, he left the house and set out down the road" is entirely possible.
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


You have misunderstood where the simultaneity resides. When there is a participle-phrase adjunct, the action of the main clause and the action of the adjunct occur at the same time.

The bull ran through the china shop, breaking dishes.

The simultaneous (or co-incidental) actions are "ran" and "breaking".

The breaking of dishes is an action collateral with the bull's running.

Gathering small twigs and stacking them carefully, he got the fire going despite the rain.

Clearly the gathering of twigs precedes their being stacked. But those two actions are co-incidental with his getting the campfire going.

The act of getting the campfire going is one that is understood to have begun with the gathering of twigs and to have continued with their being stacked.

The understanding is not of a three-phase operation:

Phase 1: Gather twigs.
Phase 2: Stack twigs.
Phase 3: Get fire going.

Rather, the gathering and careful stacking of twigs are integral to getting the fire going in the rain.

  • I have gotten the point. Thank you so much for your valuable reply.
    – dz420
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 18:31

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