Do participle phrases and clauses refer to particular instances only or can they also refer to long-term habits?

Studying the topic, he understood the concept well.

Here the sentence refers to a particular time when he studied the topic and understood the concept well. Would it make sense to employ the same phrase or a suitable variant of it to suggest habitual actions? Like someone's studying topics and understanding concepts on a regular basis. Or do I have to write it something like:

Because he studied the topics thoroughly, he understood the concepts well.

1 Answer 1


The participle clause construction does not itself determine duration:

  • Being a lifelong chocaholic, he struggled to keep his weight below 13 stone. (durative)

  • Hitting his thumb with a hammer, he yelled. (punctive)

The nature of the participle obviously makes a big difference. Some verbs allow durative aspect, others virtually force a punctive reading (though it's conceivable that the hitting of the thumb was repetetive).

  • Living in France, he drank quite a lot of good wine.

This is obviously durative, but how long-term the residing in France was we're not told.

  • Studying the topic, he understood the concept well.

Again, obviously not punctive, but we don't know whether the study was for a season

('While he was studying ...'), or lifelong

('As a lifelong student of ...').

'While', 'because ... ' and 'in order to ... ' (or context) are often needed to disambiguate the meanings of ing-clauses.

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