The power of concision in the English language

less-is-more-300x300I often find myself telling students “if you can think of a shorter sentence to say the same thing in English, just go for the shortest option!”. Compared to other languages (Italian for instance) English is much more functional and prone to conciseness.

There are many ways in which English shows up this feature. One of these is the use of the gerund in place of a whole clause*. Let’s look at this example:

You being all angry about it won’t get us anywhere.

‘You being all angry’ is a gerund phrase that in the above sentence could potentially be replaced with ‘the fact that you’re all angry’. But to my ear, the gerund sounds much more like natural English.

A gerund can be used as a subject of a sentence (like in the previous example) or an object:

I don’t agree with you moving abroad (=the fact that you want to move abroad)

Finally, the gerund acting as a noun can do what nouns can do. For instance, being preceded by a possessive:

I don’t understand your writing (=the way you write)

so yeah Less is More! 🙂

*to put it in a nutshell, a clause is a grammatical unit identified by a subject and a verb. So, for instance, Mary thinks that John is an idiot is formed by two clauses: 1. Mary thinks  2. John is an idiot
(you can usually tell the number of clauses in a period by looking at the number of verbs)


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