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For starters, I am uploading this question that I have asked over at English Stack Exchange because someone there suggested this might be a better place for it. I did a few google searches and the results didn't really point me in the right direction.

I've been chatting with a Chinese native speaker recently and she asked why I corrected the sentence "Well maybe you can talk to me use voice message" as "Well maybe you can talk to me using voice messages". I was trying to figure out how to explain it but realised that I might not have the most accurate answer.

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  • Hi, welcome to ELL! I trust you will get great answers to this question here, but you need to delete your question on ELU because cross-posting is not allowed across the SE network.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 3:57

4 Answers 4

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"Well maybe you can talk to me use voice message"

is not grammatical because if you turn it around it would have to be:

Using voice messages/messaging is a way you can talk to me.

Where "using voice messages" is the subject of the sentence and is a verbal phrase using a gerund.

Other examples for you to share with your friend:

Playing tennis is not fun for me. You can say playing tennis is not fun for you but it is for me.

Saying phrases over and over is useful. Why do you say that saying phrases over and over is useful?

Learners often do not know that gerunds are very useful.

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Well maybe you can talk to me; use voice message.

would be an instruction to use a voice message rather than some other method.

Well maybe you can talk to me using voice messages.

would be a description of a possible action. Assuming that a command is not intended, the first sentience cannot be correct. The present tense form of the verb "use" can take a subject, which will come before the verb, but the subject will be the thing that does the action, the thing that uses or makes use of.

"Well maybe you can talk to me" is not a noun or a noun phrase, nor can it function as one in this construct.

"using" however is a gerund form. it can often be replaces with "by means of" and that is exatly the intent here. It follows the main clause, and the main verb is "talk". Here "using voice messages." is a secondary clause that explains how the main action (here talking) will be done.

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What you are using is the present progressive: I am walking, she is talking, we are all breathing, my brother is eating his dinner, the children are playing on the grass, the baby is crying, my mother-in-law is wondering who will win, we are all living in the same house - etc.

The present progressive is used to describe something that is in the course of happening - and it involves the present indicative of to be and the ...ing form of the verb in question.

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  • "Well maybe you can talk to me using voice messages." Where is the present indicative of to be? Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 23:10
  • @MarcInManhattan That is present tense "can" followed by the infinitive "talk". It is not the present progressive.
    – WS2
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 7:00
  • OK, I didn't realize you were only addressing the sentence in the title. Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 18:34
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The main part of the sentence is "I am writing". This is a present progressive (or present continuous sentence and it is complete. You could stop there.

But it is possible to add extra information to the sentence. You could add an object "I am writing a letter." Or a prepositional phrase "... with a pen." or "... on the board" "... to my mother". You could add an adverb: "... quickly". You can add an infinitive clause to give the reason or purpose "... to help me remember my thoughts". There are many things that can be added.

One of the possible phrases that can be added is a participle. A participle can give additional information, such as how you were writing. And that is the phrase that you have here. "I am writing using a pen".

But to use this, the verb has to be in the "ing" form. You can't use the verb in its base form "use". There is no logic for that, it is simply a rule of English: You can add extra information with a participle phrase, which means with the "-ing" form of the verb.

(This can be difficult for Chinese learners, as Chinese is quite strictly analytic, and doesn't have "participle forms". In Chinese, words don't change form, and indeed the Chinese word order may be something like "I be use pen write". The categories of "participle" etc don't have corresponding grammar in Chinese, so it is difficult to explain by analogy to Chinese.)

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