Is this sentence grammatically correct? The dashes are em dashes. This is the last sentence of a paragraph that is in the past tense:

But I continued to work—building, learning, and simply loving what I did—and nothing has been more rewarding.

And if not, can someone explain why and provide the correct way to structure it?

  • Yes, you can use -ing verbs in a past tense. Ex: "I was loving it". Your sentence seems correct to me. I don't know the rules of em dashes very well, so I'll leave it to someone else to answer more completely.
    – iMerchant
    Jan 1, 2017 at 19:34
  • @iMerchant Except that I was loving it, strictly speaking, is not the past tense but the imperfect. However I will agree that what the OP has written is perfectly correct. I carried on walking; I enjoyed running the business etc are examples of the use of the present participle with the past tense.
    – WS2
    Jan 1, 2017 at 21:55
  • Yes, it's fine. The interpolation building, learning, and simply loving what I did is a supplement comprising a coordination of three subordinate non-finite clauses. Non-finite clause are tenseless, so there's no conflict with the past tense of the matrix clause. Btw, I was loving it is a past tense, progressive aspect clause.
    – BillJ
    Jan 2, 2017 at 10:06

1 Answer 1


We consider -ing verbs to be “non-finite” verb forms. That means that they are not inflected for person or number or tense.

To carry tense, you need a finite verb form, like your continued which is the past tense of continue, and like your has which is the present tense (and third person singular) of have.

Those other verbs like loving, though, they have no tense. Use them at will with either tense.

  • Thanks! Does that mean I need to change that "has been" because it doesn't match the tense of "continued"?
    – sparkki
    Jan 1, 2017 at 19:57
  • @sparkki No, you do not have to change it. It’s fine as is. These are two completely independent clauses — so independent thoughts — each with its own subject and verb. Each has something of its own to say, and these need to use both tenses to do that with.
    – tchrist
    Jan 1, 2017 at 19:59

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