"It's not much," Travis said. Shane held out the box; I tentatively looked inside. There was a baby pig looking me right in the eye.

The idea for the pig must have come from a day at the county fair a few weeks earlier. Travis had noticed me hanging over the pigpen railing. He'd tipped his hat and ambled over in his high-heeled, pointy boots. "How dee do, Miss Diana?" he'd asked. My students said things like that all the time.

"Hi, Travis. I love these piggies," I'd gushed, straining to touch one. "Don't you?"

He'd turned crimson and touched his hat again." Yes, ma'am," he'd said. "My cousin Shane raises them."

So they had decided to give me one. As I looked at her, I think my heart slowed down. I reached in; she sniffed my fingertips, then began to nose against the side of my hand.

The sentences stated above have been recited from the following link:


1) "I'd gushed, straining to touch one"- here, I think, 'straining' and 'gushed' occurred at the same time. First, I thought 'strain' occurred first, then 'gush'. Sometimes, this type of sentence creates difficulty to understand. Because, there are many types of works; two of these can be done at the same time, and these works also can be done one after another. To express these two different cases, -ing is added with one verb without preceding any auxiliary verb before it, another verb is written with its regular form (i, e another verb may be written with its past form, or auxiliary verb is placed before it). Is this rule applicable for both two cases? Please, discuss where that type of construction is allowed and where it is not.

I want to discuss more about my question to make it clear. In "I'd gushed, straining to touch one"- did "staring" happen before "gushed"? Or these two works occured at the same time? If these two works occured at the same time, how to write a sentence in a stylistic way when one occurs after another, or vice versa?

  • A bit awkwardly sounding, but you could try "having gushed, I strained to touch one". – Victor Bazarov Oct 28 '15 at 12:13
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    Or, "I gushed, straining to touch one." Just because the writer used "Travis HAD noticed me" in the previous paragraph, there's no need to use the past perfect later on. The simple past tense is fine. Don – rhetorician Oct 28 '15 at 12:50
  • Dear rhetorician, what you have said is not clear to me. Please, explain it more clearly. I think I am going to learn something important from your discussion. – user17969 Oct 28 '15 at 13:11
  • @rhetorician, I have to politely disagree. I think it is clearer for the writer to use the past perfect, because the entire story is written in the simple past, but from the perspective of the writer, she is (at the point in time of receiving the pig) reflecting on an earlier time. At the time of receiving the pig, she had already gushed earlier about the pigs. Putting it in the simple past leaves it unclear at which point the gushing occurs. – stangdon Oct 28 '15 at 17:09

"Hi, Travis . I love these piggies," I'd gushed, straining to touch one.

Is effectively the same as:

"Hi, Travis . I love these piggies," I'd gushed while straining to touch one.

To convey some kind of sequence, you can make it explicit...

"Hi, Travis . I love these piggies," I'd gushed before straining to touch one.

...or by simply shifting both into the same tense:

"Hi, Travis . I love these piggies," I'd gushed and strained to touch one.

"Hi, Travis . I love these piggies," I'd gushed, then strained to touch one.

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    +1 for pointing out "before straining". I didn't think of that. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '15 at 13:16

I'd gushed, straining to touch one.

There are two ways in which this sentence has been shortened. The way it has been shortened has made it less clear what is going on. Shortening sentences in this way is fairly common in English, and it works because the readers mentally fill in the missing words without thinking about it.

Here is a way to write the full sentence as it is intended:

I had gushed while straining to touch one.

A comma can be used to indicate that a word has been omitted. That is why there is a comma after "gushed" in the original sentence. While clearly indicates two things that are happening at the same time. Since it was ommitted in this case, it was not clear whether the gushing and straining were happening at the same time unless you knew that the omitted word was "while". The reason we know we can put "while" in place of the comma is that the second verb has the -ing ending, which makes the verb act like an adjective. We can see how "straining" is like an adjective here by putting a word that is always an adjective in its place:

I'd gushed while being happy at seeing the cute pigs.

I'd gushed, happy at seeing the cute pigs.

In this case, "happy" is an adjective describing "I".

If you want to be clear about events taking place one after the other, "then" is a good choice:

I'd gushed, then strained to touch one.

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