Tense agreement in a complex sentence?

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My friend and I disagree about this sentence. I think it makes sense, he says that the verb does not agree so it is wrong. Here is the sentence:

 

Only 50% of finders offered to return the computer, and 89% of those who found the computer clicked on something they shouldn’t, 53% clicking on a folder named “HR Salaries."

Verbs tense asked Apr 09 '12 at 19:13 wordnerdery New member

3 answers


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Only 50% of finders offered to return the computer, and 89% of those who found the computer clicked on something they shouldn’t, 53% clicking on a folder named “HR Salaries."

 

The problem isn't tense agreement, it's the way the whole thing has been written. It's really quite difficult for me to understand. Perhaps it's just me, but what does "finders" mean here?

 

The progressive tense, as Tolley mentioned, can be used, but it has to be done right. In this case, I agree that it will be awkward, so I'd stick to the simple tense.

 

I would rephrase as such:

 

Only 50% of finders offered to return the computer. 89% of those who found the computer clicked on something they shouldn't and 53% of these clicked on a folder named "HR Salaries".

link comment answered Apr 09 '12 at 20:57 A Clil To Climb Contributor
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 "who found" (past tense), "clicked" (past tense), "clicking on" (present tense)... does not agree. "53% clicked on a folder"

link comment answered Apr 09 '12 at 19:19 Tony Proano Expert
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You know, I also think your use of tenses isn't the main issue.

 

This much makes sense: you've created a run-on phrase (using the present participle) that contains further detail about the information in the first phrase (using past tense). The second phrase progresses the first. Here's a bit of dummy text to test this out: 'Bob moved [past tense] across the room, running [present participle] the last few meters.'

 

However, when you use this approach within a list sentence, you're combining two rather complex structures, which is confusing for your reader. It's also not the simplest way to present the data. So, unless you like the style a lot, I would advise against it.

 

Your second problem is that the last percentage (53%) you mention is actually a subgroup in a list of two preceding parallel items. Your reader will find this confusing too.

 

To help with the genuine parallels in your list (the first two %), you may want to consider using a semi-colon for your list punctuation. It's just a little heavier than a comma, and ensures slightly stronger separation between items in a list. Some people like to use this style, and others can't stand it, so it's your call. See my suggestion below.

 

Finally, you also have percentages representing groups of people, which creates a dilemma: will you refer to the abstract noun (i.e. 'that' or 'those'), or to the personal noun (i.e. 'who' or 'whom')? I'd suggest that the personal noun is more appropriate here, especially if you include the 'finders' in the other parts of the sentence.

 

I'll assume that you need to give exact percentages (otherwise, for readability I'd much prefer to say, 'more than half' instead of the last figure). So, I'd suggest:

 

Only 50% of finders offered to return the computer; 89% [of finders] clicked on something they shouldn’t,  of whom 53% [more than half?] clicked on a folder named “HR Salaries."

 

I hope this helps you. Hope you win your argument!

link comment answered Apr 10 '12 at 03:27 Katy McDevitt New member

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