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Pip joins the funeral procession, planned out by Mr. Trabb, the tailor, in carrying Mrs. Joe’s casket through town.

Is this sentence grammatically correct? One of my teachers proofread my work, and her corrections were unclear.

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  • Remove all the extra words to get to the heart of the sentence: Pip joins in carrying the casket. It's not the gerund with in that's the problem- In doesn't go with joins. – Jim Aug 24 '14 at 6:12
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    @Jim Why do you say 'in' doesn't go with 'join'. I would have thought they belonged together. 'Come on, join in the fun', 'They were playing happily until Harry joined in'. The comment I would make on the OP's sentence is that it is written in the present tense and I am wondering why. – WS2 Aug 24 '14 at 7:48
  • Pip joins in, carrying the casket or Pip joins the procession which is carrying the casket. or The funeral procession to carry Mrs. Joe's casket was planned out by Mr. Trabb. Pip joined in. – SrJoven Aug 24 '14 at 14:16
  • @WS2- Yes, the phrasal verb to join in is a fine one and they certainly go together there. But this is not a use of the phrasal verb. One can reform it to use the phrasal verb as SrJoven has demonstrated. In the original, join is used on its own: Pip joins the procession. I would suggest that in should be replaced with by (in the case where Pip is actually carrying the casket himself) or replace in carrying with by helping to carry (in the case where it's a group effort) or replace in with that was. Other options: to carry / for carrying – Jim Aug 24 '14 at 18:49
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The sentence is grammatically fine, yes. But it does not really make complete sense.

To join [X] in doing [Y] means that X is already doing Y, and you now join them and start doing it together with them.

In your example, though, X is the entire procession, and Y is the carrying of the casket. Now, depending on the size of the procession (and the casket), it may of course be true that every single person taking part in it is actually helping to carry the casket—but it seems rather unlikely.

Procession conjures up an image of perhaps six or seven people carrying the casket, and then a rather larger number of people walking along behind the casket-carriers. In this case, the procession as such does not carry the casket in the literal sense that joins the procession in carrying the casket suggests.

It is still fine, though, to say that the procession carried the casket through town: in this very similar phrase, carry doesn't have the very literal meaning of “use one’s arms and hands to lift and transport something”, but a slightly more abstract one, more along the lines of “act as a containing vessel for during a transportation”.

Your sentence now becomes slightly ambiguous: is Pip actually one of the casket-carriers, or does he just join the procession that takes the casket through town?

If the former:

Pip joins the funeral procession, planned out by Mr. Trabb, the tailor, helping to carry Mrs. Joe’s casket through town.

If it's the latter:

Pip joins the funeral procession, planned out by Mr. Trabb, the tailor, which carries Mrs. Joe’s casket through town.

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The sentence seems ambiguous. Try rearranging the order of the words:

In [the act of] carrying the casket, Pip joins the procession...
This would mean that carrying the casket has included him in the procession, but it's not clear from the original sentence whether this was its author's intention.

Pip joins in the funeral procession... but 'in' has been attached to 'carrying', not to 'join', so if that's what the author meant then he or she has confused the reader.

To say 'joins the procession... in carrying the casket' sounds unnatural, and the meaning is unclear. If it were written: 'Pip joins the procession and carries the casket', or 'Pip joins the procession by carrying the casket', or 'Pip joins the procession so he can carry the casket', or any number of other possibilities, our author would have been kinder to us, regardless of gerunds!

On the other hand, if what is meant is that Pip joins the procession in its [the procession's] act of carrying, it makes perfect sense - but how are we to know that?

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This sentence is quite confusing and I believe the main reason for that is the use of "in" in the sentence. It is better if you remove "in". I believe you can use "to" for the last part of the sentence.

Pip joins the funeral procession, planned out by Mr. Trabb, the tailor, to carry Mrs. Joe’s casket through town.

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  • How about those extra commas? – Neeku Aug 24 '14 at 8:42
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First, I feel I need to convince you to be comfortable with using gerunds, in ways wheree gerund-phrases are usable in places within a sentence where you could fit a noun.

If the examples below are insufficient, refer to my paradigmatic explanation on gerunds and their siblings: Gerund ending in -ings?.

  • I like {something}
    I like {cooking dinner}

  • I like your {something}
    I like your {cooking dinner}

  • I like {something}
    I like {having you cook dinner}
  • I like your {having her cook dinner}
  • I like your {having her {having you cook dinner}}

Then, we could analyse your sentence.

  • I am participating in singing the national anthem on Independence Day.
  • I am thinking about problems in carrying huge amount of money with me.
  • I am joining the procession in carrying the statue of RamaChrisna.
  • I am joining the procession, planned by Muthusamy, in carrying the statue of RamaChrisna.
  • I am joining the procession, planned by Muthusamy the used-car dealer, in carrying the statue of RamaChrisna.

~ QED.

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  • Pls explain the down-vote. – Blessed Geek Aug 24 '14 at 23:52

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