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Yes because even though thinking is present tense, it is being used to describe an action that Joe was taking at the time he swiped the dollar.
yes :) you are correct!
But it does require a comma, just after "ground" and before "thinking."
Yes. Thanks RG. missed that. You know me an commas. lol
Well, it's not *grammar* per se, so the lack of a comma doesn't detract from the grammatical correctness of the sentence. (I suppose Joe means himself when he says "someone"? Otherwise, the sense of it seems a little off.)
Thanks for the replies! So since "thinking" is describing the verb "swiped", what would you call it in terms of grammar? Some type of adverb? If the sentence is (with or without the comma): Joe swiped the wallet from the ground thinking someone just got lucky. And "someone" was italicized, would it make you think maybe it's Joe, but maybe not? That's my real intent here. (Not sure why I didn't just put that first. So much for trying to make it simple). Thanks again!
No it's not an adverb. It's not describing the verb swipe, it's just describing another action that Joe was taking at the same time that he was swiping the dollar or wallet or whatever it was. It's still a verb. As for who someone is . . . it is probably Joe for the simple fact that he is apparently the one benefiting from finding the item. Obviously the one who lost the wallet was not lucky at all, but this is where context can come into play. Judging from the sentence alone, we can only assume that Joe is the lucky one. However, if there were something else before or after the sentence that indicated that someone else could be the beneficiary, then we could assume otherwise. For example: Joe was troubled that his sister did not have enough money to go to the fair with him. As he walked with his head hanging he spotted a wallet lying on the ground. Joe swiped the wallet from the ground thinking someone just got lucky. In this context we can assume that Joe's sister was the lucky one since the context tells us that he is likely to give the money to his sister so that she can go to the fair.
@jagatuba ~ Nicely done! Your addition neatly recontextualizes our understanding of that reference. @gregh ~ As for how "thinking" is functioning in the sentence, it's a participle, and the entire phrase beginning with "thinking" and running to the end of the sentence is a participial phrase. Participles take the forms of verbs, but they function as adjectives or adverbs. (When an -ing form functions as a noun, it's called a gerund.) Notice that you can also move the entire phrase to several other positions in the sentence -- Thinking that someone just got lucky, Joe swiped the wallet from the ground. Joe, thinking that someone just got lucky, swiped the wallet from the ground. I am not suggesting you do that -- it works beautifully where it is. I am only noting this as a feature of participial phrases.
I need to write only the first sentence of a story, and entice the reader to think maybe it is someone other than Joe who is getting lucky. Of course, the rest of the story would reveal who the lucky one is. Maybe Joe knows, before even seeing what's inside, the wallet's owner is the lucky one, because he has no doubt he is going to return it intact. @RG, Thanks for the detailed explanation. That's just what I was looking for!
Ah, well, then you have accomplished your goal! Nice opening sentence. :)