• Doing the work he was sure.
  • Meeting you, I was proud.

This link says that the first one is wrong, but the second one is correct. It also gave the reasons behind it. But I failed to understand it. Why is the first sentence wrong? If I put a comma after Doing the work, will the first example be considered as a correct sentence? If I write he is sure instead of he was sure, will Doing the work, he is sure be correct? This link also says that, by the second sentence, it does not mean that I was not proud because I had met you, but there was another reason for me to be proud. My question is if I was not proud to have met with someone (you), why has meeting you been placed before I was proud? When suck kind of phrase is placed before an independent clause, though there is no relation between participle phrase and the independent clause following the participle phrase?

  • 3
    As a native speaker, I don't find the first sentence wrong as much as I find it confusing and unclear. "Doing the work" means "while he was doing the work". So while he was doing the work..."he was sure"? Sure of what? What does how he feels have to do with the work? (Using is or was does not change the correctness of the sentence, by the way.) It might help if you tried to explain what you want the sentence to say.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


*"Doing the work he was sure." [incorrect]

This is a not a complete sentence (even though "He was sure" by itself is). In answer to your question, yes, you are correct that adding a comma would make it OK, but we would still be left with questions ourselves, such as "What work?" and "He was sure of what?" Let's "change it up" to make this work:

While doing the math himself, he realized his teacher had made a mistake. [correct]

"While" makes it clear that his teacher's error occurred to him while he was busy solving the math problem. If we want to indicate he had completed the math before drawing his conclusion, we could say,

"After doing the math himself, he was sure his teacher had made a mistake." [correct]

Let's look at the other example:

"Meeting you, I was proud." [correct but perhaps confusing]

It's OK as it is, but it leaves us with more questions again, such as "Why would I be 'proud' about meeting you?" or "What is it about 'meeting you' that would make me proud?" It doesn't make much sense in real life. So let's try this instead:

Meeting you, my heart filled with joy because I have long admired you. [correct]

There is no ambiguity here about why "meeting you" would cause you to feel a certain way. I think you have a good grasp of using present participles if these additional examples and explanations make sense to you. The problem was with the original examples, and you were right to question them.

  • I have doubt about "Doing the math himself, he was sure his teacher had made a mistake". I am not sure to which time "Do the math himself" is indicating. Was he sure that his teacher was wrong after he completed the math himself? Or was he sure his teacher being wrong when he was busy to solve the math? Already you have answered my query. I'm really grateful to you for your valuable response. Please, help me again.
    – Azahar Ali
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 17:30
  • Excellent questions, @Azahar. My example was unnecessarily ambiguous. I've since edited it and added another. I hope these changes improve my answer and make it more comprehensible. Trying to find the "right" way to deal with "doing the work" is difficult! Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 18:43

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