What is it called when the tense switches in the middle of a clause?

“But, sir,” said Harry, making valiant efforts not to sound argumentative, “it all comes to the same thing, doesn't it? I've got to try and kill him.”

‘Oh,’ said Slughorn, repressing a large belch. ‘Oh, dear. Yes, that was – was terrible indeed. Terrible ... terrible ...’

I'd like to learn more about the grammatical rules behind it, but I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out what it's called.

  • Hi David. Welcome to EL&U. In fact, they're different verbs describing actions with different duration in the past.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 16:42
  • 1
    No tenses are being switched here. Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


making and repressing here are not "finite" verbs -- verbs which express tense and person. They are non-finite present participles (gerund-participles in some grammatical sects). Non-finite forms act as untensed verbs within the dependent clauses they head, borrowing their "tense" from the clause to which they are subordinated.

Present participles act simultaneously as verbs heading their own clauses internally and as "adjectives" or "adverbs" modifying a nominal, verb or clause externally.

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