" He threw the chair and table, grabbed Noah’s throat, shook him until his teeth chattered in his head, and, collected his entire rage in one heavy blow, punching him to the ground. "

Does "punching" make sense here (present tense) when "collected his entire rage in one heavy blow" is before it?

  • He attacked Noah, arms flailing wildly. No "present tense" there. – FumbleFingers May 28 '17 at 19:30
  • 1
    It's called the "present participle" but it has no actual tense. It gets its "tense" from the tense of the main verb. – AmE speaker May 28 '17 at 20:22

A verbform with -ing, like punching, is not "present tense" but a non-finite form—that is, a form with no "tense" (in any sense of that word) of its own.

If a non-finite form refers to a particular time, that time must be inferred from the context in which the form appears. For instance, in the sentence The goons are punching Bill, present reference is inferred from what is called a "present tense" form of BE, are; but the sentence may take past reference with what is called a "past tense" form of BE, were ("The goons were punching Bill"), or future reference with the modal verb will ("The goons will be punching Bill").

In your sentence, use of the non-finite form punching marks the clause it heads (punching him to the ground) as subordinate to the 'matrix' clause which precedes it (collected his entire rage in one heavy blow); the punching clause is inferred have the same subject as the matrix clause and to occur simultaneous with the matrix clause or immediately after it.

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