18.2.2 exercise: shortening subordinate clauses with a gerundio

The use of the gerundio to shorten subordinate clauses belongs to the many issues that are complicated in theory and very easy in practice. The reason why this is so simple is always the same. At least indogermanic languages doesn't differ a lot from each other. The basic structures are always the same. To the Portuguese gerundio corresponds the English present participle. (Not the English gerund. The English gerund is a verbal noun, the English present participle is an adverb / adverbial.) If one wants to know whether a construction with the Portuguese gerund is possible, one just has to look whether a conctruction with a present participle is possible. For different reasons the construction with a present participle may not be the optimal solution, but if it is comprehensible, it works as well with the Portuguese gerundio.

Conditional clauses, causal clauses, concessive clauses and modal clauses can be shortened with the present participle in English.

Conditional clauses: Eating a lot, one gets fat.
=> If one eats a lot, one gets fat.
causal clause: Being tired, he went to bed.
=> Since he was tired, he went to bed.
concessive clause: Even driving fast, he came too late.
Although he drove fast, he came too late.
modal clause: She informed her by writing her a letter.

As already said very often, the human brain has almost "genetically" a stable idea how it wants to verbalize the reality and this idea seems to be the same in all languages. If this were not the case, it would be very hard to learn a foreign language and it would be very hard as well to learn ones mother tongue. From a purely logical point of view "~To eat a lot, one gets fat" is as nice as "Eating a lot, one gets fat", however the first construction doesn't work. Normal people wouldn't be able to say why it doesn't work, but they "know" that it doesn't work intuitively. It not a big deal to find the reason why it doesn't work. The reason is that an infinitive can be a verbal noun, but never an adverb. "To eat too much is..." works, because in this case "to eat" is the subject and as a subject we need a verbal noun. "Eating too much is..." works as well, but this is a gerund, not a present participle. However we don't need any explanation. The human brain forms automatically categories, althoug nobody really knows how that works and independently from the question whether we find these categories logical, useful, relevant or whatsoever. The human brain "knows" that an infinitive can't describe the way the action of the verb it refers to is performed and that an adverb can do that. It could be argued that the use of the Portuguese gerundio is so easy, in most cases, to understand, because we translate from English, that we have kind of a transfer capacity. However if this were the case, we would use the Portuguese gerundio in both cases, in a context where in English we use the englisch gerund and in a context where we use in English the present participle, because they don't differ in the form. The author of these line would say, that most people don't confuse this verbforms, also they don't differ in the form.

The Portuguese gerundio is even understood without any problems by germans, although in german there is no such a thing. A construction with a german participle would be possible, but wouln't comply with the standard grammar. Therefore there is no transfer capacity from german possible. This is actually an interesting philosphical problem. It is difficult to analyse the differences, but in general people have no problems using these structures correctly.

The author doesn't deny that the transfer capacity exists, that there is a tendency to use words and structures of the mother tongue in the foreign language. Something that leads sometimes to false friends. However this author would say that these kind of phenomena happens mostly on the word level. Germans for instance will always say sensible if they mean sensitive, because sensible is sensitive in german. To resume: It is difficult to say why things so complicated from a theoretical point of view are so easy in practice.

Substitute in the following sentences the subordinate clause by a gerundio.


Er rief seine Frau an um ihr mitzuteilen, dass er nicht zum essen kommt.
He called his wife to inform her that he will have dinner outside.
Telefonou para sua mulher que ia jantar fora.
Fearing to take a high credit, he decided to buy a small house.
Porque receou ficar com uma prestação muito alta, optou por comprar uma casa pequena.
ficar com uma prestação muito alta, optou por comprar uma casa pequena.
If this wall would be painted white, the house would seem more cheerful and bright.
Se se pintasse esta parede de branco, a casa ficaria mais alegre e luminosa.
esta parede de branco, a casa ficaria mais alegre e luminosa.
Although I worked fourteen hours a day, I didn't succed in getting the work done in time.
Embora trabalhasse catorze horas por dia, não consegui acabar o trabalho a tempo.
Mesmo catorze horas por dia, não consegui acabar o trabalho a tempo.
Since the price for petrol has raised by 5 percent, the president met the prime minister after lunch.
Porque o preço da gasolina tinha aumentado 5 %, o presidente reuniu se com o primeiro ministro depois do almoço.
o preço da gasolina aumentado 5 %, o presidente reuniu se com o primeiro ministro depois do almoço.
The citiy of Recife has 2 millons inhabitants and is located at the nord-est of the country.
A cidade de Recife tem mais de 2 milhões de habitantes e esta situada no nordeste do pais.
A cidade de Recife tem mais de 2 milhões de habitantes, situada no nordeste do país.
Assuming that she likes flowers, he decided to send her a bunch of roses.
Como achou que ela gostava de flores, ele decidiu enviar lhe um ramo de rosas.  
que ela gostava de flores, ele decidiu enviar lhe um ramo de rosas.
uying and selling land he became rich soon.
Comprou e vendeu terrenos, pelo que enriqueceu rapidamente.  
Comprou e vendeu terrenos, rapidamente.
He bought and sold plots of land what made him rich quickly.
Se não há atrasos, a mercadoria chegará em dois dias.  
Não atrasos, a mercadoria chegará em dois dias.






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