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I have two possible sentences of the some situation and I am confused:

  • Realizing he did not belong there, he left the meeting early.
  • He left the meeting early, realizing he did not belong there.

Does the second sentence lack the causation feel that the first sentence shows? The first sentence seems to say that he left early BECAUSE he figured out he didn't belong. The second sentence seems to say that he left early WHILE knowing that he didn't belong.

For another situation:

  • Shooting people on sight, he barged into the house.
  • He barged into the house, shooting people on sight.

For this pair, the first sentence means that BECAUSE he had just shot people on sight, he then barged into the house. The second sentences means that he barged into the house WHILE shooting people on sight.

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    Just a suggestion: sometimes it is not necessary to emphasize a word by capitalizing it. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:24
  • This is one reason that I don't like this type of gerund clause: it's ambiguous. I agree with your feeling that preposing the clause focuses on the reason he left & so feels more causal than postposing it, which focuses on what he did. I suspect that most native speakers won't see much of a semantic difference between the two. BTW, he didn't belong there & he didn't fit in aren't interchangeable here. Maybe he didn't belong there because it was a meeting for executives only & he's just a low-level manager. Maybe he didn't fit in because it was for bisexual men & he swings only one way.
    – user21497
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:26
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    No way! The government already messes around too much with & in the English language. The French have their ineffective L'Académie française and still the French say le camping. Let us all speak freely without ill intent, & let us all sling our barbs with full knowledge that we will have to accept the consequences of our words (speech act[ion]s). Besides, no one is qualified to standardize that which will not sit still for such a centuries-long contemplated castration. It has been tried B4.
    – user21497
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 14:26
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    @stpter We in anglophone countries do not consider our governments to be “higher authorities” in matters linguistical. Such an imposition would be highly counterproductive, as it would be perceived as fascistic to the point of tyranny.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 14:30
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    There's no such thing as a "trusty higher authority". Even Santa Claus is a crypto-Joe McCarthy {"He's making a list, Checking it twice; Gonna find out who's naughty or nice."} We native Anglophones know the identity of the English language, & we know that it's a shapeshifter extraordinare. The crisis is chronic & always has been, & we don't need no stinkin' badges. :-)
    – user21497
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 15:08

3 Answers 3

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I would not say that the second sentence lacks the sense of causation, but it indicates a less significant role.

Placing realizing in the post- location suggests to me that the feeling of not belonging was one contributing factor in the decision to leave. Had he felt that he belonged, that might have over-ridden the other factors that compelled him to leave.

Placing it before the action, conveys the sense that it was his principal motivation.

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In my opinion, both versions of the sentence convey the exact same meaning, and both convey a cause and effect relationship.

The choice of ordering is simply a matter of style.

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  • How about this pair: 1. "Shooting people on sight, he barged into the house." 2. "He barged into the house, shooting people on sight."
    – user38863
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:25
  • Again, there is no difference in meaning, but the first sounds strange, and so I would use the second one. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 14:14
  • Generally the kind of adverbial clauses that can be fronted are stative, describing a situation, rather than an action. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 16:22
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Detouring from the causality angle a bit, there's an implied chronology in both of these statements, as well. Applying chronology correctly (he realized, then he left; he entered, then he shot) seems to make both statements flow more naturally.

Consider: "He leapt off his motorcycle, running into the house" flows more naturally than "He ran into the house, leaping off his motorcycle" even though causality isn't necessarily implied in either case.

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