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Anthropology is a science dealing with man and his origins. In this strategy, however, I'll conveniently redefine anthropology as "being interested, without judgment, in the way other people choose to live and behave." This strategy is geared toward developing your compassion, as well as a way of becoming more patient.

I believe the "is geared" is in present tense. But why is geared in past tense? what part of speech is geared?

Whenever a court is called upon to enforce a contract in which the price was never actually set, and where it finds that the parties intended to be bound by the open price agreement, the court is faced with the task of providing a price term.

I believe the "is called" is in the present tense. But why is "called" in past tense? When do I need to use those when writing? Than you!

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Whenever a past participle like "geared", "called" or any other is found after the verb "be" or similar copulative verbs, that is, verbs whose only purpose is to link the subject and the predicate (other copulative verbs are "seem", "appear", "become" -- for a more complete list, see here), we are faced with two possibilities:

  1. The past participle indicates that the sentence is in the passive voice, that is, that what seems to be the subject is actually the object of an action performed by somebody or something else. This is the case with "A court is called upon to enforce a contract": the implication here is that the parties to the contract call upon (ask) the court to enforce the contract. "The parties to the contract" is the subject in the active voice and may, or may not, appear as the agent in the passive voice (in this case, it does not appear, because it is deemed to be implicit and saying "...is called upon by the parties to the contract" would be redundant). The main point here is that "is called upon" expresses an action.

  2. The past participle has adjectival value. This is the case with "geared". In "This strategy is geared toward developing your compassion" (a similar case would be "This strategy is aimed at developing your compassion"), "is geared ..." expresses a state. The subject is not the object of an action done by somebody else.

In some cases, the same past participle may express an action (passive meaning) or a state (adjectival meaning). The right interpretation will depend on the context. Please compare:

  • The window was broken during the attack. (Here, "was broken" is indicative of an action: someone broke the window during the attack.) In this case, "was broken" is the passive form of the verb in the simple past "broke".

  • The window was broken and we had to move to another room because it was too cold in there. (Here, reference is being made to the broken condition of the window.) In this case, "was broken" is a verb phrase composed by the main verb "was" and the adjectival "broken".

  • Now I'm confused with Past Participle and past "perfect" tenses. Are participles used to create "perfect" tenses? Are "is geared" and "is called" considered past perfect tenses? Thank you! – user133466 Feb 12 '17 at 22:54
  • @user133466 Of course they are, but in that case they will take the auxiliary "have" (have/has/had). Notice that in the two cases you asked about and I tried to describe (passive and adjectival meanings) the auxiliary is "be". – Gustavson Feb 12 '17 at 22:59
  • @user133466 "is geared" is an active sentence formed by "be" in the present simple + adjectival "geared". "is called" is a passive sentence in the present simple. The parties have called upon the court to enforce the contract is an active sentence in the present perfect. The parties had called upon the court to enforce the contract is an active sentence in the past perfect. – Gustavson Feb 12 '17 at 23:05
  • Thank you for your explanation! Can you take a look at the following paragraph? I have learned that when I argue for my own limitations, very seldom do I disappoint myself. I suspect the sam is true for you. It's my understanding that this entire paragraph is in the present tense. However the word "learned" is a past participle and when used together with "have" to create "have learned", it created a present perfect tense. – user133466 Feb 14 '17 at 21:09
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Each verb in your examples is actually the start of (I believe) a past participle phrase that modifies the related subject (the function of the phrase after "be" being that of a "subject complement" in syntax), in the general form "A is B". In these sentences the actual verb is the simple "to be" verb.

[this strategy] is [geared toward developing your compassion, etc.]

[a court] is [called upon to enforce a contract, etc.]

You can use a simple adjective to see the structure more clearly:

the strategy is instructive.

the court is empowered.

The participle phrase takes a verb and uses it as either an adjective or an adverb. Your examples are compound sentences, so if you want you can break them into separate or simpler sentences to improve comprehension:

This strategy is [geared toward ...]. This strategy is also [a way to ...]

Whenever the court [is asked to enforce a rule], where [some other condition is true], the court must [do something].

Participle phrases are common in English because they allow you to "package" relevant information to modify some other part of the sentence.

[Abandoned by everyone he had considered to be his friends,] he didn't know what to do.

The participle phrase at the start of this sentence modifies "he" and provides context for the main sentence.

  • This is a great answer. Here's some more example sentences for @user133466 to look at, all in present tense: "He is equipped for battle", "She is stranded on an island", "The letter is typed by the keyboard" – CornSmith Feb 12 '17 at 21:26
  • Now I'm confused with Past Participle and past "perfect" tenses. Are participles used to create "perfect" tenses? Are "is geared" and "is called" considered past perfect tenses? Thank you! – user133466 Feb 12 '17 at 22:54
  • @Andrew If you don't mind, I'd like to make a couple of comments. Where you say that the sentences are compound, syntactically speaking the first is a simple sentence (one subject, one predicate), and the other is a complex one (one main clause, other dependent or subordinate clauses). I also find this sentence confusing, if not wrong: "The participle phrase takes a verb and uses it as either an adjective or an adverb." Perhaps you meant to say "...and is used..." Besides, as far as I know past participles can never function as adverbs. – Gustavson Feb 12 '17 at 22:56
  • @CornSmith how do we diagram those sentences? like the following? imgur.com/KqXvrcj – user133466 Feb 14 '17 at 22:00
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    @user133466 I've never seen sentence diagrams before but I looked it up and it looks like you've got it right as far as I can tell. [he] subject [is] verb [equipped for battle.] past participle that describes his state. I hope that helps! – CornSmith Feb 14 '17 at 22:15

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