Re: Grammar of "using"

Subject: Re: Grammar of "using"
From: John Taylor <jaytay -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 1994 14:34:20 -0700

> From: jaytay -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com (John Taylor)
> Subject: Grammar of "using"

> Here's a construction with "using" that's absolutely standard techdoc. No
> editor I know would touch it:

> "You can graph an expression in a document using the Graphic Calculator."

> But how would I explain it grammatically? Has "using" become a preposition,
> meaning something like "with"? Is it a participal used adjectivally to modify
> the pronoun "You"? A participal used adverbally to modify the verb "graph"? A
> gerund preceded by an understood "by"?

> I know, I know, who cares about grammar? But will somebody humor me on this?

Humor indeed. First, I misspell "participle" and "adverbially" in my
original message and nobody corrects me. Maybe good manners, but maybe a bad
sign. Second, I speak of "a participal (sp) used adverbally" (sp) as one of
the possibilities and nobody speaks up with the fact that participles can't be
used adverbially because they're adjectives. Good manners again? And then
there's mass confusion about just what the grammatical construction is.
There's one vote for a preposition, one for a participle used adjectivally,
one for the impossible participle-used-adverbially construction, two for a
gerund preceded by an understood "by," and one write-in vote for a gerund
modifying the verb --but gerunds are nouns and nouns don't modify verbs!

What's going on?

And while I'm at it, why is it that "using" is preferred in constructions like
this and "with" (as in "You can graph an expression in a document WITH the
Graphic Calculator") seems inadequate? Is it something to do with the idea that
a piece of software isn't simply a tool or instrument, like a pen or a hammer?
(I mean, you wouldn't say "Write using a pen." You'd say "with.")

But if it isn't an instrument, what is it?
John Taylor | Voice: 510.339.9795
jaytay -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com | Fax: 510.339.6578

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