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Why is the simple present used in the following sentence (describing League of Legends)?

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire. (source)

Shouldn't it be like the following?

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returning amidst the fire.

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  • No. Depending on whether it's bilgewater who returns, or the figure, it should have a comma, or is fine as is. "Bilgewater devours [and] returns" vs "Bilgewater devours [while] figure returns". And at any rate, "admist" is not even a word.
    – ЯegDwight
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 10:24
  • You may be mistaking "amidst" for a verb. This could be because you spelled it wrongly. Look up amidst in a dictionary. It is a variant of 'amid' that means "in the middle of". Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 11:44
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    "Amidst" most certainly is a word. Sure it's not used as often today as it was a few centuries ago but then again the character is based on a 1700's pirate... Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:59

6 Answers 6

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First, the simple present tense is used as storytelling technique. You are correct to think that an -ing form would be used in normal speech.

However, the -ing form has no tense and so it needs a tensed helper verb when the syntax requires a tensed verb, as it does here:

Consider:

The diner eats the spicy chicken as the cook prepares another dish. [OK]

The diner eats the spicy chicken as the cook preparing another dish. [not OK]

Corrected:

The diner eats the spicy chicken as the cook is preparing another dish.

Past tense:

The diner ate the spicy chicken as the cook was preparing another dish.

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In the first sentence, the simple present is used when someone's actions are being narrated, either in a story, as notes, or in real time by an announcer or reporter. In the second sentence, this is still happening, however returning is not really a verb.


X As Y can mean X happens while Y is this if Y is a noun, or X happens at the same time Y happens if Y is a verb.

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returns admist the fire.

This is describing two actions with two separate subjects (Bilgewater and an unknown shadowed figure) that are happening concurrently - A) Bilgewater devours itself and B) a shadowed figure returns admist the fire.

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returning admist the fire.

There is one action with one subject here - a shadowed figure returning admist the fire now qualifies Bilgewater.

When an -ing word does not have a form of to be in front of it, it's not a verb, but a "verbal". Verbals work as other parts of speech besides verbs - types of verbals include infinitives/gerunds (really nouns), and participles (really adjectives).

I believe here returning is a gerund so it is functioning as a noun. Therefore the first case of X as Y described above applies.

Without getting to much into it here, this construct can be used to describe that something is in the process of an activity or in a state of performing that activity as a status, e.g. John booked the train going to Chicago. It can usually be replaced with something like John booked the train that is going to Chicago and mean the same.

So here, this is saying Bilgewater is devouring itself while it is returning admist the fire.

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The sentence is ambiguous, mainly due to the author's choice of words and lack of context.

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

There are two ways we can interpret this.

Bilgewater devours itself; meanwhile, a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

Here, we use the meanwhile definition of as. It indicates two events happening simultaneously. I expect this is the more likely interpretation.

Bilgewater devours itself like a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

Here, we use the in similar fashion definition of as. It indicates that the one event is similar to the other.

The question to you is: Which makes more sense in the context?

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Bilgewater is the name of an island nation. The 'shadowed figure' is the pirate 'Gangplank'.

Thus the sentence is talking about two different things. And about two different events

A) Bilgewater devours itself
B) A shadowed figure returns amidst the fire

Since the events happen at the same time, you can use as to connect them. As means at the same time that.

Bilgewater devours itself as [= at the same time that] a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

If Bilgewater was 'the shadowed figure', then you could say

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returning amidst the fire.

Frankly, this does not make that much sense. But who knows what can happen in such imaginative games.

What makes more sense is something like:

Bilgwater disguises itself as a shadowed figure returning amidst the fire.

But since Bilgewater is a nation, and the shadowed figure is not Bilgewater, but a different thing, namely Gangplank, you use as.

The reason for using the present tense is because the present tense is often used for captions of photos or descriptions of chapters in a book; translated to the gaming context, it is used as a description of particular episodes, such as this episode (Bilgewater: Burning Tides Epilogue).

The present tense is used because it seems to be happening now, and thus it is more vivid.

However, the past could also be used:

Bilgewater devoured itself as a shadowed figure returned amidst the fire.

As still means at the same time that.

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Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

Paraphrase

Bilgewater devours itself while a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

conjunction: as

used to indicate that something happens during the time when something else is taking place. "Frank watched him as he ambled through the crowd"

synonyms: while, just as, even as, at the (same) time that, at the moment that, during the time that, just when; simultaneously "she caught a glimpse of him as he disappeared"

Google Dictionary

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This is an interesting one, because both are correct, grammatically. But given the context, I think "returns" is the right one here.

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returns amidst the fire.

Bilgewater goes away, at the same time a shadowed figure comes back.

Bilgewater devours itself as a shadowed figure returning amidst the fire.

Bilgewater becomes a shadowed figure, and then Bilgewater comes back.

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