Although I think "Clay is deformed when pressed " is better than "Clay is deformed by being pressed", I would like to know whether the latter is grammatically correct and sounds natural.

  • I assume you meant clay, not cray. Both your suggestions are "grammatical", but they don't sound very "natural". Idiomatically, native speakers would normally just use Simple Present rather than Present Perfect: Clay deforms when pressed. – FumbleFingers Feb 5 '17 at 15:55
  • Your rewrite suggests (though it does not entail) that the only way or best way of deforming clay is to press it, which is probably not what the sentence intends to say. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 5 '17 at 16:16
  • @StoneyB: I think there are some subtleties involved here. Clay bricks are hardened by being baked in a kiln works fine for me (and so does Clay bricks harden when baked in a kiln). But Unfired clay bricks deteriorate by being left out in the rain sounds pretty weird - I'm guessing that's because by implies deliberate, purposeful action leading to a desired result, but there's no such implication (or problem) with Unfired clay bricks deteriorate when left out in the rain. – FumbleFingers Feb 5 '17 at 16:46
  • @FumbleFingers Yeah. By generally answers the question "How is clay deformed?", when generally answers "What happens to clay when...?" – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 5 '17 at 16:48
  • @StoneyB: My deteriorate examples don't really work with "present perfect" (presumably because it's intransitive), but there's also the matter of differentiating between How is clay deformed? and How does clay deform? – FumbleFingers Feb 5 '17 at 16:57

There are two problems with your sentences 1) is that there is no reference to the state of the clay,usually only wet clay can be deformed; 2) deformation is usually used to describe a shape change which is not intended, e.g. "the body of the car was deformed in the accident collision".

Your first sentence

Clay is deformed when pressed

means that clay will change shape when an external source is applied.

Your second sentence might be better described as

Clay is molded by being pressed

since "molding" is an intended action to create a specific shape.

(source: konterragroup.net)

"Throwing" clay is usually though of as "molding" clay, not "deforming" clay.

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