A paragraph from a ACT reading test:

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Within the blue bracket that I marked, what does hearing function here? Gerund? so what goes before "was" is a long subject? But that does not seem to make any sense. Participle? I can not find the independent clause.

  • Please don't upload screenshots of text blocks. Please type out the context, always.
    – Eddie Kal
    Oct 2, 2020 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


[Hearing a friend tell the story of the coming of the corn] was the last stroke of the hoe that fit my mind ...

Trad grammar analyses "hearing" as a 'gerund' functioning as predicator of the non-finite clause "hearing a friend tell the story of the coming of the corn", functioning as subject.

Modern grammar does not distinguish gerunds and present participles (and nor does it need to), simply calling them 'gerund-participles'.

Note that non-finite clauses don't normally have an overt subject, but we understand them as if they did. Here, the subject appears to be the writer.

  • Could you further help me understand what "(the author) hearing... was the last stroke of ..." means in terms of meaning? Oct 2, 2020 at 14:01

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