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"knew going in"

Posted by Adrian on February 25, 2004

In Reply to: "Knew going in" posted by Smokey Stover on February 21, 2004

: I'm glad R. Berg provided some answers here, because "going" is what they call a "verbal," that is, a verbal form not used as an actual verb, said about participles and infinitives used other than as ordinary verbs. In this case, "going" is a present participle, used as something else. Verbals are sometimes very slippery. While I was growing up, school classes in English often involved diagramming sentences.

Into trees, a la Chomsky? Scary.

At first this was easy and enjoyable. But sooner or later it got difficult and frustrating, often because of dependent clauses, often because of verbals. At this point the teacher, to whom it was no easier than to us pupils, usually found that we had practiced diagramming sufficiently, and could go on to something less taxing. In "We knew going in" the word "in" is an adverb, "knew" is a transitive verb (with "what" as the required direct object). So what is "going"? Well, R. Berg calls it an adverb, modifying "knew," a very plausible explanation. Personally, I would have gone for adjective, modifying "we," but I'm probably wrong. It is not a predicate adjective, even though it is in predicate position. It is not a gerund and not part of the main verb in one of the progressive tenses. If we had a copulative verb, as in "what we knew while we WERE GOING in," then the subordinate clause would have a verb in the past progressive tense. As for the "continuous" character of the going, well, one doesn't necessarily go all at once, although Rice could have said, "when we went in." The time frame admits of either a simple past or a past progressive tense. Incidentally, does anyone know of other languages which claim, as English does, a progressive tense? We have a complete set of progressive tenses: He is going, he was going, he has been going (perfect progressive or present perfect progressive), he had been going (past perfect progressive), and even some conditionals: I would be going (imperfect conditional progressive, according to some grammarians), I would have been going (perfect conditional progressive). The thing about "verbals" is that they are usually dead easy to use and understand, but somewhat frustrating to try to explain. SS

It might be simpler just to consider it an example of ellipsis - "What we knew (when we were) going in".