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The sentence being: After pulling the fisherman to safety, the groomsmen returned for more wedding photos on the jetty – this time in their underwear, dripping wet and a little battered and bruised.

I think it should say After he was pulling the fisherman to safety, the groomsmen returned for more wedding photos on the jetty.

I could not find any reference why you can leave out he was. My assumption is, that AFTER implies, that this is past also as the whole story happened in the past and therefore this could be to stress this part of the story. Does anyone have some reference for me on this? Thank you.

  • You can't use 'he was' about the groomsmen (plural) – Michael Harvey Nov 11 '18 at 13:10
  • "After pulling" is a gerund phrase. It is correct. Participles and gerunds – Michael Harvey Nov 11 '18 at 13:15
  • Putting aside the singular/plural issue, although he was pulling is in principle grammatically valid, it's not idiomatic, and would almost never be used in such contexts (we'd invariably say he [had] pulled). – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '18 at 13:55
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"After" can be (at least) two different words grammatically.

It can be a preposition, introducing a noun phrase:

After lunch

After his graduation

and that noun phrase can be a non-finite clause with a gerund:

after pulling the fisherman to safety"

It can also be a (subordinating) conjunction, introducing a finite clause:

after I got home

after they pulled the fishermen to safety.

There is not usually any difference in meaning. The form with the gerund is probably a little more formal.

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