Is walking a gerund in this sentence? I think while is acting as a conjunction. . .

Gloria tripped and fell while walking down the street.


1 Answer 1


Walking is a participle in your example. While is a subordinating conjunction.

Gloria tripped and fell while [she was] walking down the street.

This is an elliptical adverbial clause of time: with certain conjunctions, subject pronouns and finite forms of be can be left out, as here. It is only possible if the subject is the same as that of the main clause.

Happy, though [she was] crying, she accepted the prize.

While [she was] on the floor, she remained unnoticed by her adversary.

She could be ruthless when offended.

This origin of this ellipsis may have been influences by appositional phrases:

Displeased with her lover, Cleopatra shut her bedroom door. — (adjectival apposition)

Cleopatra, a fairly competent ruler, failed to expand the power of Egypt and died delivering her country to the Romans. — (nominal apposition)

A few others conjunctions can also be used without a finite verb, but in a different and more limited way:

He was perceived as lacking vigour

Queen Cleopatra, if passionate, still displayed great cunning and tact when necessary.

He was beaten until dead/?crying.

The floor was cleaned where dirty.

In certain limited cases, relative and interrogative pronouns can also have constructions that can be interpreted as ellipsis:

The street [that one is] to take is on the left. — (least clearly ellipsical)

Who [is one] to blame for this incident?

Why [would you] cry if you can laugh?

  • English never makes total sense (though Cerberus' answer does). Why doesn't as behave like the synonymous while ? Gloria tripped and fell as she was walking down the street. *Gloria tripped and fell as walking down the street. Nov 15, 2013 at 23:43
  • @EdwinAshworth: Yes, I never understood why while and though are like that. And as would have been a good candidate, also because as can take a bare participle in other constructions: she was perceived as lacking vigour. But no! I suppose it is more or less possible with if where it means though (some style books will disapprove): Queen Cleopatra, if passionate, still displayed great cunning and tact when necessary. Then there is he was beaten until dead/?crying, which is also somewhat different and more limited. He used to giggle when making love qualifies, though. Nov 16, 2013 at 0:56
  • @Cerberus: Qualifies as being [oh look, as + participle] very bad for his sex life, most likely! Nov 16, 2013 at 1:09
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: Haha, right, no giggling. I've already added an as example to my answer. Nov 16, 2013 at 1:37

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