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I found in a textbook on technical writing that the following expression is incorrect.

Entering the secret code, the gate will open immediately.

The book says that the correct expressions are the ones below.

When you enter the secret code, the gate will open immediately.

When the secret code is entered, the gate will open immediately.

From the "be concise" perspective, I think the expression in the title is even better, but I am not confident enough. Please advise, and thank you for your help.

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  • Your version sounds fine to me, but "better" is a matter of opinion. My personal preference is for "When the secret code is entered the gate will open immediately" (with no comma).
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 0:24
  • Thank you nnnnnn for your comment. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 0:49
  • The first of the three sentences in your question is wrong because it makes "the gate" the subject of "entering". The version in the title, on the other hand, is fine. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 1:15
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    Your version is fine, but it has a slightly different sense. Who's in charge — the gate or the code? In the original version, the gate opens when you do its bidding (enter the code and the gate will let you in). In your version, the code opens the gate. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 1:32
  • Thank you Andreas for mentioning that the first sentence of the three is grammatically wrong. That is why I have come up with the sentence in the title. Thank you Tinfoil for the comment. Your note on the slight difference, which is hard for me to grasp, is much appreciated. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 1:42

1 Answer 1

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What you have is a simple SVO sentence, with the subject specifically being a gerund phrase. It is grammatical.

It's only possible to word it like this because "open" can be used in the mediopassive. Compare a sentence like "when you enter the secret code, someone will help you": there is no way to transform that into "entering the secret code will ..." (at least not without fundamentally changing the sentence: "... alert someone to help you").

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  • Thank you Laurel for the answer. Your example makes sense to me. Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 2:05
  • "It's only possible to word it like this because "open" can be used in the mediopassive." Another situation where you can word it like this (with a gerund-phrase as subject) is where there are corresponding intransitive and transitive verbs. "When you enter the code, the shutters will rise." "Entering the code will raise the shutters."
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 6:15

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