Omitting “while”

taceev

Senior Member
Turkish
1- I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street. (While I was walking down the street)
2- She was also attending to her email talking on the phone. (While she was talking on the phone)
As far as I know, these sentences below considered correct but can't understand the difference between 3 , 4 and 1 , 2

3- A man ran out of the house shouting. (While he was shouting)
4- Joe hurt his knee playing football. (While he was playing)
1,2 are considered wrong because one can interpret that: "The hundred dollar bill was walking down the street." or "Her email was talking on the phone. ". But I don't understand why one doesn't interpret that: "Knee was playing football" or "The house was shouting"
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Aren't "a hundred bill" and "her email" also placed as objects in their sentences?
    They are, but you can "find" (or "see" etc.) someone doing something else (I found / saw a man (=who was) strumming the guitar), but if you "hurt" your knee playing football only you can be the player.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    A sentence like "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street" isn't so much "incorrect" (we say things like it all the time) as it is ambiguous, and therefore best avoided if you want to write / speak carefully. But it depends on the content of the sentence. "I found an ice cream cone melting on the sidewalk" has the same apparent structure, but we would be unlikely to think that "I" was melting.
     

    taceev

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    A sentence like "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street" isn't so much "incorrect" (we say things like it all the time) as it is ambiguous, and therefore best avoided if you want to write / speak carefully. But it depends on the content of the sentence. "I found an ice cream cone melting on the sidewalk" has the same apparent structure, but we would be unlikely to think that "I" was melting.
    What about "the house" :). One also can interpret that "the house" was shouting.

    I totally agree with you. But I think there no way that one can easily avoid such sentences.

    If someone can interpret this "the hundread dollar was walking" from this sentence "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street", I don't think there is a logical way to communicate with that person.

    " I found Sam on the sidewalk walking down the street. ". That kind of sentences could be problematic since "I" and "Sam" might be the one walking down the street. So the sentence need a correction, such as : " I found Sam on the sidewalk while walking down the street" or to be sure "I found Sam on the sidewalk while I was walking down the street"
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    What about "the house" :). One also can interpret that "the house" was shouting.

    [...]
    No, the house can't be shouting, for reasons of syntax. The closest would be "The man ran out of the shouting house," which would be weird but grammatically possible.
     

    taceev

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    No, the house can't be shouting, for reasons of syntax. The closest would be "The man ran out of the shouting house," which would be weird but grammatically possible.
    Do you agree with the rest of my last post? When I say or write "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street " , could one really think that sentence is wrong and want me to rephrase it?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    When I say or write "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street " , could one really think that sentence is wrong and want me to rephrase it?
    Not only would I suggest rephrasing it, but I would save it as a somewhat funny example of errant word order. :rolleyes:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    When I say or write "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street " could one really think that sentence is wrong and want me to rephrase it?
    Of course. If you want the participial phrase to be understood as "as I was walking down the street", you should bring it to the front of the sentence. It's the only logical place for it.

    (X-posted)
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Do you agree with the rest of my last post? When I say or write "I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk walking down the street " could one really think that sentence is wrong and want me to rephrase it?
    It would be fine in conversation; in writing we would add "while" or reword it to avoid any possible ambiguity. To take a simpler example:

    I saw an elephant driving to work.

    There's nothing "grammatically wrong" with this, but unless you live in a world where elephants drive you presumably mean "while driving to work." In conversation we don't have to add "while," but in print it might raise a snicker or two.
     

    taceev

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    @The Newt

    Thank you, I was asking for the everyday use.

    @sdgraham @velisarius

    What about the second example "She was also attending to her email talking on the phone. ". Again, could you want me to rephrase it and save it as a funny example from a poor learner ? :)
     

    taceev

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Sorry I have to ask it again because I really want to understand this well. Okay I get it, ıf I used this one "She was also attending to her email talking on the phone. ", native speakers would consider it funny and want me to rephrase it.

    But I really don't see any difference between 2 and 4 in terms of syntax? Why you want me to rephrase it 2 while consider 4 fine?
     
    Last edited:

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Sorry I have to ask it again because I really want to understand this well. Okay I get it, ıf I used this one "She was also attending to her email talking on the phone. ", native speakers would consider it funny and want me to rephrase it.

    But I really don't see any difference between 2 and 4 in terms of grammatical perspective? Why you want me to rephrase it 2 while don't consider 4 fine?
    It's a bit sloppy but comprehensible. We wouldn't consider it "funny" and it's not ambiguous, but it might take us an extra second to follow the syntax.
     

    taceev

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Is there any problem if I use the "participle form" right after the object of the main clause? Such as:

    "I hurt the thieft stealing my wallet." (Intended meaning: In the process of stealing I hurt him.)
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Is there any problem if I use the "participle form" right after the object of the main clause? Such as:

    "I hurt the thief stealing my wallet." (Intended meaning: In the process of stealing I hurt him.)
    "I photographed the man stealing my car" might be a better example. It's okay, at least conversationally.
     

    taceev

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    "I photographed the man stealing my car" might be a better example. It's okay, at least conversationally.
    Thanks. The first problem that comes to my mind: I could interpret these sentence as:

    1- I photographed the man who stole my car. ( The man I photographed was the man who had stolen my car some time ago.)

    2- I photographed the man while he was stealing my car. (He was in the process of stealing. If I had had more time, I could have stopped him.)

    The same interpretation could be applied to my example too.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Thanks. The first problem that comes to my mind: I could interpret these sentence as

    1- I photographed the man who stole my car. ( The man I photographed was the man who had stolen my car some time ago.)

    2- I photographed the man while he was stealing my car. (He was in the process of stealing. If I had had more time, I could have stopped him.)
    No, only 2. is accurate.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    What about the second example "She was also attending to her email talking on the phone. "
    Ignoring the talking emails, it could mean either:
    She was also attending to her email while talking on the phone.
    She was also attending to her email by talking on the phone. She called the people who had emailed her.
     
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