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  1. #1
    englishteacher79 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Grammar - Verb -ing

    I'm an ESL teacher and I teach IELTS. Take this sentence:

    "There was a sharp increase in the number of people studying in universities from 1997 to 2007."

    I'm interested to know what how to explain to a student why to use the verb -ing "studying". What grammar point would this be categorized under?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    moeb8 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Grammar - Verb -ing

    In my opinion, you are dealing with the "restrictiveness" of clauses or bound/free modifiers.

    This sentence can also be written as:
    ... people who/that studied in universities...
    OR
    ... people who/that were studying in universities...

    The participle modifies the people and restricts it to a certain subgroup. So, with that in mind, that/who (relative pronouns) can be omitted IF THERE IS NO AMBIGUITY. That is a case by case situation.

    Now, if we omit the relative pronouns from the sentences:
    "There was a sharp increase in the number of people studied in universities from 1997 to 2007."
    OR
    "There was a sharp increase in the number of people studying in universities from 1997 to 2007."

    The first sentence implies that the increase occurred in people studied (as in test subjects in academic experiments), while the 2nd one creates no ambiguity; the modifier modifies the correct subject: people.

    So, I would tell your student that if he/she is going to omit the relative pronoun in restrictive clauses, he/she should check the implication of the new sentence and ensure there is no ambiguity.

  3. #3
    englishteacher79 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Grammar - Verb -ing

    Thanks moeb8 for your thorough answer.

    That's a great help. I've been teaching IELTS and before that mainly levels of around upper intermediate (mainly intermediate) and below. So these are areas I am not that well versed in because these are not really taught at those levels.

    Most of my students are also Asians (especially from China) and so their levels are not very high and English is not used that often. They are already struggling with simple grammar.

    I'm assuming that most teachers teaching the same levels as me and teaching the same kind of students would struggle to understand and explain this. It would be overwhelming for a student who can't even grasp the basics.

    And so I'm wondering if for these students we should actually teach this, or would it be something we'd expect them to "catch" by themselves.

    Anyway, I went through an old edition of English Grammar in Use and I think while I do see Relative Clauses there, they don't seem to go more in depth into areas you explained above. I guess this may be a bit more advanced.

    I'm wondering your thoughts on teaching all these to students who are already struggling with basic grammar. I'm assuming those who teach maybe Europeans or others in countries that speak more English (e.g. in South Asia), who are exposed more to English, may want to touch on this. But I'm wondering if the above ought to be taught to the majority of Asian and Southeast Asian students are already struggling with simple stuff.

    Thoughts?

  4. #4
    moeb8 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Grammar - Verb -ing

    For this concept, you can try doing physical examples.

    For example, there may be people who walk to class, while others who drive. Take two from each category and have them stand up.
    Now, give them a sentence:
    "The students look tired."
    And ask them if they can tell you what this sentence is saying. Is there enough information there for them to know who you are talking about? Would it make sense for all of them to be tired?

    That is just one.
    You can come up with other examples where by omitting the relative pronoun creates ambiguity.
    Like, some people forgot to eat lunch and others didn't. "The students are feeling hungry."
    You can do a few more until the understand the concept of ambiguity and how relative pronouns help deal with them.

    I'm not a teacher but I have tutored siblings and physical demonstrations can have that eureka moment.

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