[Grammar] Better Present Participial Phrase Explanation sought

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Some students are having a difficult time understanding this exercise on Present Participial Phrases:

* Mary was working in the kitchen peeling potatoes.

Students are to identify any present participles or P.P Phrases and draw an arrow to indicate any modification of nouns in the sentence. Some students wanted to explain the sentence as having two verbs, "was working" and "peeling" instead of just "was working" which is work preceded by the helping verb "was" and a participial phrase "peeling potatoes" modifying Mary. It seems PP Phrases usually modify a noun directly before or after them but in this example, they are not sure about the exception. Thanks.
 

5jj

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Welcome to the forum, Ian. :hi:

In that sentence, the two words in 'was working' together form what we generally refer to as the past continuous/progressive aspect/tense of the verb WORK, a finite verb (phrase). 'Peeling' is not a finite verb in this sentence., and would generally be considered as a present participle.
 
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