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For each feeder, a photo transistor scans its own track of an endless 35-mm film, giving a selection for each jack control spring as it passes the control position of the feeder.

This sentence has been recited from Knitting Technology by David J Spencer. Does giving a selection indicate an ongoing action?

A photo transistor scans its own track indicates a general fact, i.e it is in simple present tense. Sometimes phrases like giving a selection confuse me, because no auxiliary verbs are used before the ing-form of verbs, and such kind of phrases are set off by comma without their subject. Giving a selection starts with ing-form of verb, and no subject is directly attached with it, and it does not have any verb. Since no auxiliary verb is used, it is complicated for me to understand when such kind of phrases indicate an ongoing action and when they, instead of indicating an ongoing action, indicate the action that occurs before the other action.

I would request the experts of this site to discuss this problem. They may use my example if they consider it useful, or they may use other examples if they feel better with their own examples.

  • grammar-quizzes.com/clauses-11.html. It is just reducing the clause. You can just reword "For each feeder, a photo transistor scans its own track of an endless 35-mm film, which gives a selection for etc" – Ghaith Alrestom Dec 31 '15 at 6:23
  • Could you please provide two competing readings of the sentence? As it stands, it seems unambiguous to me. A photo transistor scans a track and gives a selection for each spring as it does so. – CowperKettle Dec 31 '15 at 6:28
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    Next sentence: If the position of the film has a transparent spot, light is transmitted to generate an impulse. – lurker Dec 31 '15 at 6:30
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    Context: bit.ly/22zKWJO – lurker Dec 31 '15 at 6:31
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I'll quote from Quirk et al's Comprehensive Grammar (Unit 15.60, 'Supplementive Clauses'):

Adverbial participle and verbless clauses without a subordinator are SUPPLEMENTIVE CLAUSES; like nonrestrictive relative clauses and clauses in an and-coordination, they do not signal specific logical relationships, but such relationships are generally clear from the context. [...] The formal inexplicitness of supplementive clauses allows considerable flexibility in what we may wish them to convey. According to context, we may wish to imply temporal, conditional, causal, concessive, or circumstantial relationship. In short, the supplementive clause implies an accompanying circumstance to the situation described in the matrix clause. For the reader or hearer, the actual nature of the accompanying circumstance has to be inferred from the context.

See, Context is King.


In your sentence, the matrix clause is:

For each feeder, a photo transistor scans its own track of an endless 35-mm film, giving a selection for each jack control spring as it passes the control position of the feeder.

The key situation is: "a photo transistor scans a track".

The supplementive clause implies an accompanying circumstance. 'What does the photo transistor do while it is scanning a track?' - 'It gives a selection for each jack control spring as it passes the control position of the feeder.

From the context we understand that this act of giving a selection is very short, and that a transistor might make dozens or hundreds or thousands such short acts while scanning the track.


Thus, we always have to rely on the context. A gerund-participial clause may even indicate a causal link, not a temporal one:

Being a farmer, he is suspicious of all governmental interference. [Because he is a farmer, ...]

This is because to be is a stative verb. Stative verbs in nonfinite clauses tend to suggest a causal link.

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    Thanks a lot. You explained this matter nicely. You have written "we may wish to imply temporal, conditional, causal, concessive, or circumstantial relationship". It would be helpful for me if you show me the way or examples of SUPPLEMENTIVE CLAUSES, which will help me to understand when it means temporal, when it means conditional, when it means casual and when it means circumstantial relationship. I know it may annoy you. I would be grateful if you did it. – Nazmul Hassan Dec 31 '15 at 12:38
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    @NazmulHassan -- sorry, I'm too lazy at this point in time (=now). (0: Happy New Year! You might get a copy of Quirk et al and look up that chapter. There are no explicit examples for all these types of relationships on that particular page, though. (0: – CowperKettle Dec 31 '15 at 13:03

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