In a book I found these sentences:

  1. Solve the assignments using what you have learned.

  2. Tom showed up wearing a suit.

I can understand the meaning. But I do not know why using and wearing are used without a preposition like by or with.

I have learned participles are used as adjectives or nouns. But in the cited sentences they seem like adverbs.

I thought the prepositions for using and wearing is omitted because the meanings are very obvious. But I'm not certain.

And I also considered 2 like this.

Tom wearing a suit showed up. This seems to be clear grammatically to me. But it isn't smooth.

Are using and wearing used as adverbs? If so, can participles be used as adverbs? And if they aren't adverbs please explain how they are used grammatically to me.

I'm an ESL learner. If this is solved, then it will be much help for me to learn English continuously.

  • I think there needs to be a ',' before using and wearing. Feb 4, 2015 at 16:46
  • @RaghuramanR: No, there doesn't. These are normal colloquial English sentences. Participles are reduced clauses; there is a subject (which might not be present but is understood) and a verb and there can be an object if the verb is transitive. Feb 4, 2015 at 16:58
  • It would be perfectly correct to say whilst wearing a suit, or by using what you have learned. But the sentence retains its idiomacy if those prepositions are omitted. Wearing and using are present participles.
    – WS2
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:27
  • It's not clear to me what "wearing" is in such constructions, but one possibility is that it's a gerund. I don't think it's a participle. Perhaps the construction is a concealed prepositional phrase using "with" and "wearing" is what remains of the object of that preposition. Schematically, "Tom showed up with (Tom wear a suit)", where "with" expresses an accompanying circumstance to the event of Tom's showing up. The "with" is ordinarily suppressed, but not always: "With Tom wearing such a nice suit, he'll surely get the job he showed up to interview for."
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 4, 2015 at 18:42
  • You can write Tom, wearing a suit, showed up.
    – Barmar
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


I'm not a grammarian, and one English sentence can often be parsed several ways. With those disclaimers, I'd like to suggest that

  1. "using what you have learned" is an adverbial clause modifying the verb "solve", and similarly, "wearing a suit" is indeed an adverbial clause modifying the verb "showed up." "Tom, wearing a suit, made his appearance" is a more formal version of the second sentence, but absolutely needs to be surrounded with commas.

  2. Inserting the adverbial clause between subject and verb makes the sentence more complex and subtle -- and therefore more elevated or formal in register. In my opinion, therefore, "Tom, wearing a suit, showed up" is grammatically possible but somewhat unidiomatic because showed up is a) very short and b) is an informal synonym for something like "made his appearance" -- blending the more complex sentence structure with the short, informal verb is a little incongruous (i.e., not a good combination), unless you intend the incongruity for some special purpose.

  3. "Using" and "wearing" are participles used as (adverbial) gerundives in the above cases. The same participles would be used as gerunds if they functioned in the sentence as nouns ("Using what you have learned is the right method" or "Wearing a suit will make them think you're a businessperson.") I might add that these are traditional overlays of Latin grammatical terms and are of limited usefulness in parsing English sentences. You could use prepositions (such as "by" or "for") if you are using the participle as a gerund (noun), but not if you are using the same participle as a gerundive (adverb). Note from the examples above that the gerund (using the participle as a noun) doesn't need to take a preposition, depending on the meaning. Note also that the gerund can be either a subject or an object: Subject: "Wearing a suit is uncomfortable." Object: "I hate wearing a suit."

  4. Slight differences in meaning or emphasis ("nuances") can result when you change the sentence structure. Gerund with preposition: "By using what you have learned, you will solve the assignment" emphasizes that "using..." is the method or instrument to "solve..." whereas Gerundive: "Solve the assignment using what you have learned" merely specifies the manner in which it is expected the solving will be done. "Tom was criticized for wearing a suit" means wearing a suit (and nothing else) caused the criticism, whereas "Tom, wearing a suit, was criticized" merely describes Tom's condition while he was criticized for something (which may or may not have had anything to do with wearing the suit).

I realize this is complicated, but you can take satisfaction from the fact that your intuition was absolutely correct: i.e., the participles in your examples were being used as adverbs! It means you're on the right track. BTW, I'd be curious to know what your mother tongue is -- if it's a language with which I have any familiarity, it could help me explain all the above a bit better.

  • Your comment is very helpful to me. Really thanks for your sincere comment. But I have another question. In these days it seems that people are omitting the preposition used before a gerund. "I have difficulty (in) solving this problem," or "he spent much time (in) finding a key." are the examples. My question is "is this omittion right and formal ?" It seems that they are omitting prepositions used before gerunds, expecially when the gerund phrases are used as adverbial phrases.
    – Roy Kim
    May 30, 2015 at 7:02
  • If this phenomenon is common and formal, it seems that I could apply this to the above two sentences and my questions will be solved clearly. BTW, I'm a south korean. So my mother tongue is Korean. You said you are not a grammarian but you seems good at grammar to me : ). Anyway, thank you again.
    – Roy Kim
    May 30, 2015 at 7:04
  • Actually I tried to add a comment in February but it doesn't work. And today I installed the app and it works very well. Anyway I'm sorry for the delay
    – Roy Kim
    May 30, 2015 at 7:07

You would never say 'like' or 'with' before a gerund. 'Wearing' and 'using' are verbs, so you might say something like

Tom is wearing a suit; or Tom was wearing a suit.

(Unless you were to say something like, "I enjoy many activities, like walking." But then you're referring to walking as an activity, rather than saying that someone is walking.)

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