It's from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern's sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father.

Why author used 'were sopping'? Is 'sopping' a present participle or an adjective in the sentence? And is it correct to say:

Fern's sneakers had sopped by the time she caught up with her father.

  • It means "Fern's sneakers were sopping (wet)..." The book uses literary but (in my experience) not regular usage of the verb sop.
    – user3169
    Apr 8, 2018 at 4:22
  • But the state had changed 'by the time' so I'm confused with using 'by the time' because it sounds like finished action.
    – Alwind
    Apr 8, 2018 at 4:28
  • 2
    The word sopping is being used as an adjective to mean "soaked through." As in, her sneakers became soaked through prior to catching up to her father, so they were sopping by the time she did catch up. Your other sentence doesn't sound right to me, but I'd probably know what you meant. I couldn't say whether it's wrong or just unusual.
    – godel9
    Apr 8, 2018 at 4:37
  • godel9, thanks. And how can I use perfect tenses to say correctly?
    – Alwind
    Apr 8, 2018 at 4:49
  • 1
    "Sopping" is an adjective, not a participle. There is a verb 'sop', but it has a different meaning. Your first example is fine - "sopping" is modifying "wet". Your second example is ungrammatical since for this meaning "sopped" is not a past participle and hence cannot occur in a perfect tense verb phrase.
    – BillJ
    Apr 8, 2018 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


There is a verb "to sop". It means to dip into a liquid.

He sopped his bread in the gravy.

It's pretty rare now, almost completely replace by "dunk", The phrasal verb "sop up" is only a little more common.

So pragmatically, can we believe that The sneakers were dipping (something) into a liquid? Ridiculous! This is not the present continuous form of the verb "sop".

But there is an adjective "sopping" which means very wet (obviously a related word) It must be the adjective that is intended here. You will also see the phrase "sopping wet" used as an adjective

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