11

Recently I wrote a sentence and came to realize I've chained two third person conjugated verbs like this:

The area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears occludes a significant part of the screen.

"appears" is taking about one thing (the expanded toolbar), while "occludes" is taking about an entirely different thing (the area where the toolbar appears).

The meaning of the whole sentence seems clear to me, but its the first time I see something like that. Or at least that I'm aware of it.

Is this the right way to write that sentence?

Even when I can't come with a sentence off the top of my head that has three of those verbs chained together, is that acceptable for more that two verbs?

7
  • 7
    As JavaLatte mentioned, it's not chaining so much as ending one clause with a verb and beginning the predicate right afterwards. This is perfectly fine English.
    – user32753
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:38
  • 3
    While it's perfectly grammatical, from a stylistic point of view if you don't like the way it looks or sounds, the passive voice might help here ("A significant part of the screen is occluded by the area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears"). I would say it's fine, though.
    – Muzer
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:55
  • The sentence is grammatically fine but it doesn't clearly express the idea. Something like "When it appears, the expanded toolbar occludes a significant part of the screen" would be better -- the area itself doesn't occlude anything; rather, the area is occluded by the toolbar. Mar 16, 2017 at 16:36
  • 1
    I think the sentence is both grammatically fine and reasonably clear. At its heart, it's just a simple subject-verb-object sentence: (something) occludes (something else). The subject, the "something", is the noun phrase "The area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears." Nothing particularly unusual or unclear about that.
    – stangdon
    Mar 16, 2017 at 17:03
  • 6
    Here's one with three verbs together: "The place where the spare tire for the car my wife drives goes holds a jack and tools too." Mar 16, 2017 at 17:51

2 Answers 2

15

where the expanded toolbar appears is a relative clause. You could snip it out to make a valid sentence, though one that omits an important piece of information.

The area of the screen occludes a significant part of the screen.

The sentence now looks odd, because the clause contains important information that defines which particular part of the screen you are talking about: that means that it's a defining relative clause.

You don't use commas to separate a defining relative clause from the rest of the sentence- you just slot it straight in- so your sentence as it stands is correct and, in my opinion, completely understandable.

3
  • 3
    Still, stylisticaly it's terrible. The doublication should be taken as a hint that "the area of the screen" adds no information. Just write "The toolbar occludes ...". What's more, how can an area of the screen occlude the screen, ie. itself?
    – Hector von
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:45
  • @Hectorvon: doublication... duplication?
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:48
  • Oh Strunk! Oh White!
    – PatrickT
    Mar 17, 2017 at 2:41
8

The area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears occludes a significant part of the screen.

In the sentence above we see the two present tense verbs appears and occludes next to each other. The verb occludes means something similar to hides.

We might think that these verbs are chained together like the verbs can and swim in the sentence:

  • She can swim

Or maybe they might look as if they are chained together like wants and to leave in:

  • She wants to leave.

However, in the Original Poster's sentence, the verb appears is part of the noun phrase:

  • The area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears

This noun phrase is functioning as the Subject of the sentence. The noun phrase includes a relative clause:

  • where the expanded toolbar appears

The verb appears occurs within this relative clause.

In contrast, the verb occludes is the main verb in the main clause.

The two verbs have different Subjects. The Subject of occludes is "The area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears". The Subject of appears is "the extended toolbar".

We can structure the larger sentence like this:

  • [The area of the screen where the expanded toolbar appears] occludes a significant part of the screen.

In answer to the Original Poster's question: yes, this sentence is perfectly grammatical.

Nonetheless, the Original Poster's intuitions are also correct. We cannot chain two tensed verbs together in English. We can only have one tensed verb in a verb phrase. In their example though, these verbs are in different verb phrases.

1
  • @SovereignSun Sounds tempting - but definitely not! We cannot put a comma between a Subject and its verb. (Although we could put commas around the relative clause if it was a non-defining relative clause. But it isn't, so we can't :0) Mar 16, 2017 at 13:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .