He turned slowly down Aldersgate Street, and was pondering his way along towards Saint Paul’s, purposing to come into one of the great thoroughfares, [...]

(From Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, Chapter 13)

What does the term 'pondering his way along" mean? Does it mean that Clennam was pondering about something while walking along towards Saint Paul's? Or he was pondering about his destination?

Is pondering a transitive verb in the above passage or just an intransitive verb with "his way along towards.." being an adverbial phrase?


1 Answer 1


Like many things, it's a Construction -- an idiomatic phrasal arrangement with some required words and some open spots for your words, all tied up in a syntactic structure like the let alone X construction.

  • Verb-ing X's way

It means "X is Verbing while X is moving", but the movement need not be specified. The construction is restricted to active (not stative) verbs; any verb used will be interpreted as active. It can be and often is followed by some locational or directional phrase, but that's not required. You don't need anything after way.

wending my way, working his way over, chattering their way down the street, making their (own) way

Dickens was just using an odd word to mean he was lost in his thoughts. More interesting is his use of purposing instead of proposing, I think. He did like strange language. Just like Terry Pratchett.

  • 4
    I don't find "purposing" odd here, just a bit dated. M-W gives the definition as "propose," but personally I find that odd. Whatever Oxford-powered source Google uses for definition sources gives "verb: FORMAL: have as one's intention or objective. 'God has allowed suffering, even purposed it'" Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 21:30
  • 1
    'He bled his way to the emergency department.' 'She shopped her way back to the bus station.' Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 14:55
  • Yes, the construction isn't restricted to participles. BTW, note that failure to supply a destination or location often invokes PATH metaphors from the LIFE is a JOURNEY theme, as in find her own way. Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 16:16

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