Source: Anna Karenina

  • For a few seconds Oblonsky stood alone; then he wiped his eyes, sighed, and expanding his chest went out of the room.

Why isn't this sentence in this way: wiped his eyes, sighed, expanded his chest, and went out of the room.

  • It is the act-in-progress that is important emotionally here, not the achieved stated of expandedness. He doesn't leave the room holding his breath. :) We could say alternatively "and taking a deep breath...". Contrast that with: He pulled his goggles over his eyes, grabbed his speargun, took a deep breath, and dived into the sea.
    – TimR
    Jul 21, 2017 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


"Anna Karenina" is a Russian novel, translated to English. "Expanding his chest" might be the best translation of a Russian idiom, but it's not idiomatic in English.

We might say someone "puffed out his chest" to indicate confidence or braggadocio, but in this case the translator should have substituted a more appropriate English idiom like "he gathered himself together" or "he took a few deep breaths", to show he's trying to "regain his composure".

In any case, "expanding his chest" is a participle phrase that acts as an adjective (not a verb) which modifies the pronoun "he". Other examples:

Gathering his strength, he pushed the heavy rock out of the way.

Drying his eyes, he resolved never to fall in love again.

Searching his pockets, he found a few dollars for bus fare.

  • 1
    The idiomatic phrase that comes to mind for this is taking a deep breath, he... It might be worth mentioning that it's phrased as a participle phrase rather than added to the string of past-tense verbs to indicate that, while the wiping of eyes and sighing all happened while he was still in the room, the chest-expanding happened as he was leaving the room (or maybe as he took his first step towards the door).
    – 1006a
    Jul 21, 2017 at 14:07
  • You mean that we can put it in this way: expanding his chest, he went out of the room, or in this way: he, expanding his chest, went out of the room. But expanding, in this sentence, seems to me that is a gerund not an adjective. Jul 21, 2017 at 14:28
  • @BavyanYaldo yes, you can put the pronoun first, but it's doesn't sound as good. And yes, a participle phrase looks a lot like a gerund phrase, but they act differently. "Expanding his chest was painful with his cracked ribs" has a gerund phrase, because it acts like a noun.
    – Andrew
    Jul 21, 2017 at 15:10

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