Yes, Tony Hsieh's Zappos.com has made a lot of shoe buyers happy; his new book Delivering Happiness will make business readers happy; his company's success makes investors happy; he succeeded, he says, because his employees are happy.
I'm just happy to talk about gerunds, participles, and the principal parts of a verb. Ah verbs.
All verbs have four principal parts:
1) the base form, or the infinitive w/o the "to"
2) the 3rd person present
3) the present participle, or -ing form
4) the past participle, or -ed (-en) form
All of the tenses in English are made of one of these four parts + a helping verb, such as "to be," "to have" and/or a modal verb, such as "can," "may," "will," etc.
Well, I suspect that discussion will not deliver anyone to happiness if it continues into the technicalities of verb form, alas.
Let's just look at the -ing forms: participle and gerund. Using participles well will let you strut your stuff without fear of dangling. Step out with the word "gerund" and folks will gasp at your grammar prowess.
Participles are verbs that end in -ing or -ed and that act like adjectives. They modify words. Present participles end in -ing. Past participles end in -ed, -en, and sometimes -t.
Think about baked goods and fried eggs. "Baked" and "fried" are the past participles, and they describe the goods and eggs. Think about high-heeled shoes; the word "-heeled" describes the shoes. Think about new running shoes; "running" modifies the shoes. It is a participle, and it tells us descriptive details about them, just like the adjective "new" does.
Participles can also occur in phrases, phrases that modify nouns and pronouns. And when participles modify the wrong thing, they are called "dangling."
Here's an example: Think about the sentence, "Running from her creditors, her Ferragamos dangling from her manicured fingers, she rested a moment at the Prada store." "Running" describes "she." "Dangling" describes the shoes. But what would it look like if the participle were dangling? Quelle horreur! (to be all French couture about it): "Running from her creditors, her Ferragamos dangled from her manicured fingers." Oh no, it sounds as if the SHOES are running!
So that's the secret of dangling participles. Make sure they modify the right noun to prevent dangling!
Gerunds are verbs that end in -ing and that act like nouns.
Think about running. "Running was one of Charlotte's passions. Shoes were the other." "Running" is a noun there, the subject of the first sentence. It is a gerund because it is a verb, it ends in -ing, and it acts like a noun, just like "Shoes" does, which is the noun and the subject of the second sentence. (Charlotte, of course, is a character in Sex and the City. Probably not a Zappos.com customer, but you never know.)
Which brings us back to Delivering Happiness. Delivering happiness is Tony Hsieh's passion. "Delivering" is a gerund. It is a verb, it ends in -ing, and it is the subject of the book, and the sentence. Delivering great shoes is a great business, and delivering happiness to the workers at Zappos is apparently great business as well. Happiness and business: Maybe joining the two is the future!
Gentle readers: Go one up on Tony Hsieh. Can you make up a sentence combining a gerund and a shoe reference? Extra points for a pair of sentences!
Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and is currently teaching English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services.
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