1

I searched but couldn't find an answer because I don't know the relevant grammatical terms, unfortunately. Sorry if it has already been answered.

I am wondering about the difference between the two forms "when/if + verb(ing)" and "when/if + one + verb(s)". Two examples would be:

Of the 256 forms of syllogisms, only 24 are valid, or, by another standard, even only 15 when additionally excluding those that commit the existential fallacy.

Of the 256 forms of syllogisms, only 24 are valid, or, by another standard, even only 15 when one additionally excludes those that commit the existential fallacy.

This technology is particularly widespread when entering data in online forms.
This technology is particularly widespread when one enters data in online forms.

Is there a difference in meaning between the two forms? And if not, which is more formal?

(If it matters: The use case would be statements about established issues in the context of a thesis (while also trying to avoid "you" or constructions with passive voice).)

1 Answer 1

1

GrammarQuizzes explains that

A clause followed by before, after, when, while or since can be complemented by a nonfinite gerund clause

  1. if the reference —person, animal, entity doing the action— remains clear (i.e., the subject of both clauses is the same) and
  2. if no other important information is lost.

Although normally the when + gerund structure does sound more formal in your two examples, it is not grammatically acceptable because the subject of the verb in the gerund does not coincide to the subject of the main clause.

For example

This technology is particularly widespread when entering data in online forms.

This technology is subject of the main clause, but it is not the agent of entering. So the use of pronoun one is more correct. If you want to avoid using one, then you could get round it by using the passive:

This technology is particularly widespread when data are entered in online forms.

As Cambridge explains

Passive structures without an agent are very common. We use these structures when an agent is not important, or is unknown or obvious:

  • The data was analysed and the results have just been published.
8
  • 1
    It's "the law of unintended consequences". Because of the attempt to write "better" formal text by avoiding passive constructions, the OP ends up coming out with the (to me, much more egregious) syntax error (no suitable explicitly identified subject for when entering). Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 14:42
  • 1
    @fev : That clears everything up, great. Thanks for the comprehensive response. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 20:35
  • @FumbleFingers : You are so right. These are habits, for in my native language it is often discouraged to use the passive or "you/one" in such texts. A teacher would almost always comment on my last sentence with "Discouraged by whom?". Always name the culprit, or so they say. Anyway, thanks for your comment. I guess I'll work on my fears of the passive. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 20:36
  • 1
    Now that I see it, I think my construction "when referring to your own work" makes the same mistake as before since "the use of 'I' or 'we'" seems to be the subject of the sentence. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 15:10
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers : :-) Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 20:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.