I've been reading some books and been confused about the verb tense used in the sentences, for examples:

1: But I knew Lefty’s dumb sense of humor. “Nice try, Lefty,” I said, and followed him through the doorway.

Question: why couldn't use following instead?

2: I took another step into the room. And as I did, a dark figure stepped toward me.

Question: why couldn't use stepping instead?

  1. It’s a mirror, dork!” Lefty said, and started to laugh.

Question: why couldn't use starting instead?

  1. which functions are those verbs being used in the examples above?

Please help to advise, Thanks a lot!

2 Answers 2


You could indeed use the present tense (...ing form) in all of them. But your sentences are structured to take indicative verbs. So you just need to adjust them slightly to read:

"Nice try Lefty" I said, following him through the doorway.

As I stepped into the room, (I saw) a dark figure stepping towards me.

"It's a mirroe, dork!" said Lefty, starting to laugh.


All the sentences are set in the past and the actions (to follow, to step, to start) have already ended, this is why you use the past participle.

You would use the "ing" form in the past continuous:

  • for something which happended before and after another action
  • for something that happend before and after a specific time
  • to show that something continued for some time
  • for something that happened again and again
  • with verbs which show change or growth

Reference: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/past-continuous

Here how your first example can be changed to the past continuous:

I was following him through the doorway, when I said "Nice try, Lefty". (the action "to follow" happens before and after the action "to say". In the example above the actions happen one after the other)

Note: In the past continuous you need the past tense of the verb to be (I was following)

You must log in to answer this question.

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