I remember my father taking me to the zoo when I was a child.

the above sentence has three clauses:

  1. I remember.
  2. My father taking me to the zoo.
  3. I was child.

What is the tense of the second clause? and can we replace it with used to or simple past? which one of the following is close in meaning to the above sentence?

  1. I remember my father used to take me to the zoo when I was a child.
  2. I remember my father took me to the zoo when I was a child.


Why do I think there should be tense and verb in this sentence:


A clause is the basic unit of grammar. Typically a main clause is made up of a subject (s) (a noun phrase) and a verb phrase (v) ... Cambridge Dictionary

So, if I'm right and the above (my father taking me to the zoo) is clause, so I presume that there is a verb and the verb should has a tense.


We can form passive structures with verbs that are followed by an object (transitive verbs) and some clauses where the verb is followed by a preposition ... Cambridge Dictionary

And I can convert the above clause to passive voice as following. So, What do I convert? Isn't the verb? and Doesn't this verb has a tense?

I remember being taken to the zoo when I was a child ...

  • There is no tense in present particles (despite the name). – green_ideas Feb 26 '17 at 15:52
  • Thank you, I'll update the question to describe why I think there is a tense and verb – Shannak Feb 26 '17 at 15:54
  • 1
    If you're remembering, it means you're re-living the moment, so the action is in the present from that perspective. – fixer1234 Feb 26 '17 at 21:31

Clare is quite right: an -ing form is not marked for any tense (time reference). Only finite verbs are marked for tense, either past (he took) or non-past (he takes).

Context permits us to attribute a time reference to the clause which the -ing form heads, but that time reference is not a property of the verb. In your example, for instance, the clause headed by taking is understood to have a past time reference because a) the clause in which it is embedded is headed by a verb which entails a past reference in its complement—we don't ordinarily "remember" eventualities which are happening now or which we expect to happen in the future—and b) this clause is modified by a temporal locative which explicitly locates the eventuality in the past.

Neither of your active rewrites expresses quite the same thing as your original example.

  • I remember my father used to take me to the zoo when I was a child.

    There is no warrant in the original for the habitual used to: the original entails only that the event took place on at least one occasion but is silent as to whether the event took place on multiple occasions.

  • I remember my father took me to the zoo when I was a child.

    There is a very slight difference between A) remembering X doing Y and B) remembering that X did Y: in A you assert the fact of the event, while in B you assert your present memory of the event itself. But in most cases the difference is unimportant.

Aside from eliminating the Agent of the verb, your passive rewrite is fine; like the original it is headed by an -ing form which is marked for no particular tense of its own: the tense of the clause it heads is inferred from context.

Traditional grammar gives this form two different names, gerund or present participle, depending on its syntactic function. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language calls it a gerund-participle.

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