A clerk taking cash from a customer and not entering it in the cash register.

Here's my question: how and when can I use subject + verb + ing without be like the first part in the sentence?

For me, I'll say: "a clerk takes cash" (present simple) or "a clerk is taking cash" (present continuous). Sometimes, I see sentences like the one mentioned above, but I can't detect what kind of tense that is. Under what conditions should I use this subject +verb + ing form?

  • Thank you for responding, What did you mean by full version? and how "be" is not missing because it actually doesn't exist in the sentence. if you can explain more, it will be nice from you.
    – ahm
    May 10, 2015 at 9:48
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    Actually @Arrowfar it is missing. "A clerk taking cash from a customer" is a noun phrase; there is no main verb. The sentence would be something like "A clerk taking cash from a customer sells him a service"
    – Andrew Leach
    May 10, 2015 at 12:59
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    That's not a sentence, those are clauses. See also: English Language Learners
    – Kris
    May 10, 2015 at 13:34
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    Clauses don't contain this form subject + verb + ing
    – ahm
    May 10, 2015 at 14:18
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    A clerk taking cash is a noun phrase, not a clause. It contains two parts: a clerk -- the head noun -- and (who was/is) taking cash -- a relative clause modifying the head noun, (which is) reduced by Whiz-Deletion to a participial phrase. Oh, and participles, gerunds, and infinitives are all tenseless; hence the is/was -- can't tell what tense was there. May 25, 2015 at 18:30

2 Answers 2


Taking is your example is either a gerund (noun in the form of a verb) or a participle. In neither case is it a main verb, so the example is not a sentence, and "What tense is it?" is meaningless.

You could say "A clerk taking cash and not entering it in the register is an example of fraud"; there taking is a gerund, and your words make up a noun phrase. The verb would normally be in the present simple, since it is a pure description; but the sentence could conceivably end ...was fraud until the recent change of legislation; now it is theft.

The alternative would be "A clerk, taking cash and not entering it in the register, is defrauding his employer" (commas helpful for clarity, but not strictly necessary). Present participle, and your words are an adjectival phrase.


"a clerk taking cash from a customer ..." is not a sentence but a simple noun group with a present participle. Such constructions are simple shortenings of relative clauses.

"a clerk who takes cash from a customer ..." can be shortened to "a clerk taking cash from a customer ...".

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