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"Girls being kept out of the sciences and pushed into the humanities; the humanities being valued less in our society than the sciences;... "

This sentence is weird and I want to know why. I noticed "being" has no helping verb. The semicolons delineate subjects; it reads like a list.

My questions: What is the structure? Is this passive? What is the verb tense? Is there an object? Why is this terrible? Thank you.

edit:

Here is the full quote:

Girls being kept out of the sciences and pushed into the humanities; the humanities being valued less in our society than the sciences; and the humanities and sciences being looked at as stark opposites that couldn’t possibly be enjoyed for the same reasons

are all problems that need to in some degree be tackled together.

All the "beings" stick out to me, as do the excessive semicolons. The transition from the final "being" into the "couldn't possible be" is strange, (is there a tense switch?), and then it ends weakly.

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  • There is no tense in this, for there are no finite verbs. In fact, there is no complete sentence in that excerpt. Being is a present participle.
    – Anonym
    Jul 16 '14 at 23:40
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    I suspect that these clauses are each subjects to the main verb, which is excluded in the ... of the quote. Please post the whole sentence; use bold to indicate what you're concerned about. It might even help to include a sentence either side as well.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 16 '14 at 23:42
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    Also, the use of semicolons (as supercommas?) seems unwarranted. Jul 17 '14 at 0:02
  • @AndrewLeach: +1 That, or an absolute construction. Jul 17 '14 at 0:07
  • @EdwinAshworth: Style guides permit such semicola if the (non-clausal) elements of an enumeration are very long. Jul 17 '14 at 0:08
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Perhaps rich-text would help:

The following

  • girls being kept out of the sciences and pushed into the humanities
  • the humanities being valued less in our society than the sciences
  • the humanities and sciences being looked at as stark opposites that couldn’t possibly be enjoyed for the same reasons

are all problems that need to in some degree be tackled together.

It's a list of three long noun-phrases, then "are", then a predicate complement.

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At the moment it does indeed read as a list of noun phrases. There is no main verb present in the excerpt that you have posted but as Andrew Leach suggests it may appear later in the sentence.

'being' is part of a passive reduced relative clause, 'girls being kept' possibly substituting for 'girls who are being kept' (although the time frame is not clear in the excerpt). The implied tense of this relative clause might thus be present continuous passive. This type of reduction (i.e. in which you remove the relative pronoun and 'are/is') is quite common with defining relative clauses containing continuous forms.

I think it might be best to describe 'being' itself as a 'helping verb', if by 'helping verb' you mean 'auxiliary verb'. The meaning verbs (or semantic verbs) in these relative clauses are 'kept', 'pushed' and 'valued', each in past participle form, with 'being' providing the other ingredient necessary for the construction of the passive: be + past participle.

Hope that is helpful. All the best!

This site explains reduced relative clauses pretty well!

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The sentence could also mean to be changing topics in itself. It could be interpreted as we are using semicolon to change the path of the conversation; which in itself is the meaning of semicolon.

But the sentence would be best written as using 'fullstops' and by changing its structure.

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