You cannot say:
(1) "After eating lunch, my bike was fixed."

Instead, you should say:
(2) "After eating lunch, I fixed my bike."

Here, the related rule is a dangling modification.

However, this rule doesn't seem to apply to the 'by -ing' patterns.

(3) "By inserting the word 'or,' the ambiguity can be removed from the sentence."
This sounds okay at least to my ears, even though the sentence represents a case of breach of the rule.

(4) "By sailing south, Australia can eventually be reached."
This sounds very awkward to me.

And how about the "in -ing" patterns?
(5) "In learning English, the most important thing is ...."
Can't we say this way?

I would rewrite this sentence as foolows:
(6) "The most important thing in learning English is ...."
With this, the problem of "dangling" has disappeared. If both (5) and[6]are correct, dangling seems to have something to do with the position of the phrase in question.

I'd appreciate your comments on this.
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Hi, Komountain san

Very good questions! I too can't fix this problem.

I am also waiting for Moderators to answer to your questions in detail.

Hello Komountain

1) "After eating lunch, my bike was fixed." - you're correct: this sentence is wrong, and suggests that the bike had eaten lunch, which only happens in Polish cartoons.

(2) "After eating lunch, I fixed my bike." - you're right: 'eating' relates to 'I'.

(3) "By inserting the word 'or,' the ambiguity can be removed from the sentence." -
I would say that 'inserting' here is a gerund, and stands for 'insertion of'. A gerund by its nature names the action without naming the doer, and so can't reasonably be accused of dangliness. (You can test the sentence by putting the first clause after the second: 'the ambiguity can be removed from the sentence by inserting the word "or"' - fine.)

(4) "By sailing south, Australia can eventually be reached." Awkward, yes; but again, I would say it's a gerund. Reverse the order of the clauses and it sounds ok to me.

(5) "In learning English, the most important thing is ...." - I would again say this is a gerund; as also in number (6).

Sentences 3 to 6 could doubtless be more elegantly phrased, but I wouldn't say they were ungrammatical.

(Though others may disagree!)

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Uh uh, MP.

I understand 'eating' in (1) is also a gerund. All the '-ing' forms in my examples share the same nature of a gerund. But, judging from your comments (for which I am thankful), they are treated differently.

You suggest reversing the positions proves the sentences are correct.
In case of (1), however, the reverse doesn't seem to work, does it?
Komountain san

'After' works as a preposition but please remind 'after' also does work as a conjunctive.

I fixed my bike after I took lunch.
=After taking lunch, I fixed my bike.

Most native speakers seem to interpret this 'after' as a conjunctive rather than as a preposition.

Hi, paco.

Yes, 'after' has a double fuction.
But I'd like to focus on the "after -ing" patterns and here the word 'after' is a preposition, not a conjunctive. Your last line "Most .... preposition" sounds persuasive, but I still doubt its verity. Do you native speakers have such subconsciousness?
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Hello Komountain, hello Paco

I'm sorry, I was a little unclear: I intended the 'reversing clauses' method to be taken simply as a trial by ear. So in sentence 1, for instance, reversing the clauses accentuates the absurdity of the sense.

Gerunds and participles are indeed slightly controversial. Some people say that 'after + -ing' = 'preposition + gerund'; some say that it = 'sub. conjunction + participle'.

I would say the latter (the less popular view, these days), for the following reasons:

1. 'After + -ing' can be converted into an ordinary indicative:

'After eating lunch, I fixed my bike' > 'after I had eaten lunch, I fixed my bike.'

This is a characteristic of a participle, but is not possible with the gerund:

'Eating lunch preceded fixing the bike' > ???

(??? because we don't know who the 'doer' is.)

2. 'After + -ing' can simply be replaced by a ordinary present participle, to denote a change of period:

'After eating my lunch, I fixed the bike' ~ 'Eating my lunch, I fixed the bike'.

No one would argue that 'eating' in the second example is a gerund; it would be curious if (all other things being equal) we used a gerund for the past period, but a participle for the present.

3. 'After + -ing' can be replaced by a past perfect participle:

'After eating lunch, I fixed the bike' > 'Having eaten my lunch, I fixed the bike'.

(I am tempted to say that 'after + -ing' is itself a form of the past perfect participle.)

4. 'After (preposition) + gerund' is a distinct form in its own right:

'Swimming after eating is unwise.'

5. If 'after + -ing' indeed = 'preposition + gerund', when we reverse the clauses ('I fixed the bike after eating my lunch'), we have the curious effect of 'I' as subject both of the verb 'fixed' and the verbal noun 'eating' - though the latter is to be parsed as an object.

That said, many good authorities still affirm that 'after + -ing' = a gerund! I'd be interested to hear the case for the other side.


Thank you for the very interesting discussion!

I was taught that "after + -ing" is a phrase similar to
"as + -ing",
"while + -ing" or
"when + -ing".

But sounds the interpretation differs from person to person.
I'd like to hear opinions of other native speakers.

Oops! I doubled the same posting! Sorry
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