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A key goal is learning to read a matrix.

Why is present continuous used here? As I understand goal is a final state. So learning is the process, to achieve something, not the goal itself. So this sentence should be like:

A key goal is to be learnt how to read matrices.

So actual goal is to know how to read them, not learning it. Is this correct?

EDIT: I'm trying to understand, is the goal is the process of learning or the goal is the final state after you've learned, i.e. the goal is to know how to read, which is acquired by learning.

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I just missed comma after Noah so it sounded like he fixed. But I was just addressing him, like: Noah, I fixed the sentence ... my apologies. –  dhblah Nov 9 '12 at 7:30
    
Oh, so the fix was yours and not Noah's? Then I'll delete my comment. But I still don't understand what Noah meant by "the sentence is ungrammatical", and I notice that his comment has been deleted. @Noah: Sorry, Noah. Well, I guess that shows that punctuation is sometimes good for something and that omitting some commas can change the meaning of a sentence. I always knew that there was a reason for commas and other punctuation. –  user21497 Nov 9 '12 at 7:36
    
@BillFranke, yes, it was my fix. –  dhblah Nov 9 '12 at 7:38
    
English Student: But you omitted the optional colon (:) after @Noah AND forgot to capitalize "fixed" AND omitted the optional subject "I". Three tiny glitches that broke the semanticamel's back. –  user21497 Nov 9 '12 at 7:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Since you mention ‘present continuous’ in the question title, I think you may have read is learning as a present continuous construction. It is not. The subject of the sentence is a key goal, the verb is is and the complement, more precisely, the subject predicative, is learning to read a matrix. Learning is derived from the verb learn, but here it functions as a noun, describing the process of acquiring knowledge.

Murphy covers uses of the -ing forms of the verb compared with to followed by the plain form of the verb in Units 55 to 57 of ‘English Grammar in Use’.

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Thank you for the reply. Now I understand the structure of the sentence. I only don't fully understand the meaning. The goal is learning, rather than the goal is knowing how to read (acquired by leaning). Right? –  dhblah Nov 9 '12 at 7:48
    
It’s hard to be sure without the full text, and without a knowledge of the subject under discussion. I assume that read has a rather specialised sense in the context of matrices. In that case, the sentence would mean that a major objective is acquiring the ability to understand a matrix. –  Barrie England Nov 9 '12 at 7:59
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Thank you a lot. –  dhblah Nov 9 '12 at 8:03

This isn't a present continuous because the subject of the sentence, "goal" is incapable of learning anything. It can be rewritten as:

"A key goal is to learn to 'read' a matrix."

If it were "John is learning to 'read' a matrix", then the sentence would be present progressive.

learning to "read" a matrix is a gerund phrase. As Barrie England says, it functions as a noun phrase, the subject complement.

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