I'm having trouble figuring out which form is the past tense for sentences like these. For each example, which would be correct? Or have I completely missed something? Thanks.

John stepped on the teacup, smashing it like an egg.
John stepped on the teacup and smashed it like an egg.

Will shook the bush and pixies came tumbling out, yelling.
Will shook the bush and yelling pixies tumbled out.

The second one seems more correct in each case, but both sound fine to my ear.

  • 2
    To the user who flagged this as possibly off-topic: I think this question is probably okay. It's about using grammar as a tool, not about asking if a specific phrase is grammatically correct. It also uses its example phrases as exactly that: examples. While the answers get a bit involved with grammatical issues, I think this is more about how to use a grammatical principle than just correcting a phrase's grammar. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 19 '15 at 23:00

Writer Preference

Both ways are correct. In your first example, 'smashing it like an egg' is a dependent clause. The second line converts it to a compound verb and an adverb clause. In your second example, both versions use the conjunction 'and' to join two independent clauses.

In cases like these, it is purely a matter of which version you think sounds better and contributes more to what you are writing.


Both are correct. There is more than one way to form the past tense in English.

  1. The crowd shoved him up against the wall.

  2. The crowd was shoving him up against the wall.

I prefer the first.

Here's the definitive answer to the difference between verbs which end in ed versus verbs ending in ing.


The short of it is: verbs ending in ed is the past tense verb

verbs ending in the ing is the present participle

I believe at times a writer may prefer the ing because it makes her (think her) writing sound more like it is happening in the present.

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