I was listening to a video from Ted, and he said the following sentence.

In the last few days, the leaders of the world, meeting at the UN in New York, agreed a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030

I understand the meaning of the word in this context but why he used verb+ing form rather than just past tense like met? or is there something omitted?


The leaders of the world, meeting at the UN in New York, agreed a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030.

The phrase meeting in at the UN in New York is a verb phrase which tells us about the noun phrase the leaders of the world. It is an Adjunct and provides extra information. It part of the main clause. We have to use an -ing form here, because this verb does not have its own Subject, and it is not the main verb phrase in the sentence. Notice that we could put this phrase at the beginning of the sentence:

  • Meeting at the UN in New York, the leaders of the world agreed a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030.
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  • Hmm ... making the participle clause a "part" of the Subject implies that it is a restrictive clause modifying the Subject: Those leaders who met &c agreed. The comma brackets suggest to me that it is non-restrictive and therefore to be parsed as a clausal adjunct or 'supplement' which could be moved around: Meeting &c, the leaders agreed. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 15 '15 at 17:06
  • I wouldn't use the phrase "tensed verb". It's a present participle, which has tense; it is not a finite verb. – chepner Oct 15 '15 at 17:36
  • Note that "agreed goals" is not correct English. It could be "agreed on goals" or "agreed to goals", (or "upon/with/etc.") but some kind of preposition is required there. – GentlePurpleRain Oct 15 '15 at 19:14
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    @chepner Those labels for participles are just an unfotunate historical accident. Not having tense is a defining characteristic of participles. That's why for example we can use the so-called present participle in past continuous constructions and past participles in future perfect and also passive future constructions. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 15 '15 at 22:50
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    @Araucaria I don't mind the commas, which reflect (in this instance) speech; but I dislike supplemental participle phrases and clauses, which are literarisms alien to speech. And I regret the reduction of your original copy. Save it: it's a great answer to another question. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 16 '15 at 11:08

If he had said "met at the U.N...." he would have had to follow it with "and agreed on a new set...".

"Met" and "agreed" would have been two equally-weighted items in a list, but he wanted to put the weight of the sentence on "agreed on a new set of Global Goals", so he minimized the meeting itself, which was simply a necessary prerequisite to the important bit: the agreeing.

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I'm going to write a short answer and skip the part "what is it?" (what does it form?), get to the "Why (he used verb+ing form)" part, and put it succinctly.

It's because in English...

you can't have two main verbs in the same clause.

(I wish I could make the font bigger.)

(NOTE: That's technically not completely correct. A more correct version would be "you can't have two main verb groups" in the same clause, but that wouldn't be as succinct as I want it to be.)

In other words: it's always one clause, one main verb (group)!

There are many ways to work around the problem, when you want to put more verbs into the same clause. One common way is to join them with a conjunction (as in G. Ann - SonarSource Team's answer), though this would change the meaning. Another common way is to turn other verbs into something else, and the easiest way is to turn them into participles (verb+ing), just like in your example. (See more details in Araucaria's answer.)

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