The Dow closed up by nearly 1.5 percent at 30,015, just under four years after reaching the 20,000 mark for the first time. President Trump, speaking a day after telling his administration to stop blocking the presidential transition, held a brief news conference.

I'm a student studying English in Korea. this paragraph is a part of English news. and i discovered that "speaking" is not necessary by terms of grammar. I think that sentence has already gotten a verb,"held". i just need to know the difference of meaning between when "speaking" is there and when it isn't.

thank you for your kind answering in advance.

  • Yes, the matrix clause has the finite verb "held", but there's nothing wrong with including the subordinate gerund-participial clause in adjunct function. If "speaking" is dropped, it would be better to relocate the temporal NP to the end of the clause, as in President Trump held a brief news conference a day after telling his administration to stop blocking the presidential transition. It could also be fronted. There's no real semantic difference, but I prefer the original, which seems more stylistically elegant to me.
    – BillJ
    Dec 1 '20 at 8:27
  • then, when i interpret the original, can i think as if Trump held and spoke at the conference? just in a semantics.
    – bishop2
    Dec 1 '20 at 8:36
  • Think of "speaking" here as meaning "communicating". It first tells the reader when Trump spoke and then at what event he spoke. Nothing seriously wrong with it.
    – BillJ
    Dec 1 '20 at 9:08
  • Better to read the sentence as "Trump, who was speaking a day after telling." Dec 1 '20 at 13:40

I think you have just cause to query this. "Speaking" in that place is not only unnecessary - it is confusing.

It is saying ...Trump speaking a day after...held a news conference.

"Speaking" and "held" do not work together. It would be like saying "speaking on Thursday, Smith did a handstand". One does not infer from the other.

Had it said ...Trump speaking a day after...announced a new policy it would have been alright, since "speaking" infers from "announcing" - but it does not infer from "holding".

  • I don't agree. Speaking is what he did at the new conference. I agree that it is not the most elegant of phrasing, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 20 '20 at 22:57
  • @ColinFine Technically there is nothing "wrong" (or for that matter "right") about anything anyone says. The English language is what people say. And I have no doubt many might say "speaking the next day Jones held a news conference". But it is not something I would expect to see in a Times or a Guardian leader. And for a Korean person studying English, like this OP, I believe we do them a disservice if we do not adhere to the standards that would be applied by a GCSE, A Level or university examiner.
    – WS2
    Dec 21 '20 at 21:23
  • @ColinFine Moreover the sentence "Speaking next day Jones held a conference" contains an important elision. It is actually "While speaking next day...". Now. one might well "speak while holding a news conference", but one cannot, I maintain, "hold a news conference, while speaking". And that is what the OP's example is saying.
    – WS2
    Dec 21 '20 at 21:34
  • I see no grounds for asserting that while has been elided. The temporal relationship of adverbial clauses like that to the main clause is very variable.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 21 '20 at 22:02

The word "speaking" in current English usage can be both a noun and an adjective. "Former President Trump is a professional speaker." "Nancy Pelosi is the current Speaker of the House of Representitives."


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