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I came across the following sentence; “Controlling what they say, they often keep the most critical parts of their character hidden.”

Can it be said this way; “By controlling what they say, they often keep the...”

What’s the difference? Are the both sentences correct?

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The first is a participial phrase which applies to the whole main clause, and generally specifies something that is happening at the same time as the main clause.

The second is a prepositional phrase which acts like an adverb to modify the verb in the main clause- for example, to say how, where, when, etc it was done.

Both of your examples are grammatically correct and the meaning is roughly the same, but the exact meaning could be considered different.

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