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I think I should use broke because it is in past tense. Am I correct? If incorrect, can you explain to me briefly which case is correct?

  1. I was thinking about punching him and breaking his teeth.

  2. I was thinking about punching him and broke his teeth.

  • 1
    Here's a tip: if you use thinking, then punch should be punching and break should be breaking. "I was thinking of punching him and breaking his teeth." Unless, of course, you already punched him and broke his teeth. – Kristina Lopez Aug 26 '14 at 13:45
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Both sentences leave out a part:

I was thinking about punching him and breaking his teeth.
I was thinking about punching him and [I was thinking about] breaking his teeth.

Here, because punching and breaking are both present participles, the reader will read this as if you left out the whole [I was thinking about] part. Without that part, the second part of the sentence does not make sense.

You were thinking about two things.

I was thinking about punching him and broke his teeth.
I was thinking about punching him and [I] broke his teeth.

Here, was thinking [about punching] and broke are complete different forms of verbs so the only thing that seems left out is I.

In this case, you give the impression that you broke his teeth by thinking about punching him. Quite a feat, if you ask me, but probably not what you wanted to say!

  • I believe these are gerunds, not participles? They act like nouns, not adjectives. – Matt Gutting Aug 26 '14 at 15:02
  • The name of the -ing form of a verb is "the present participle form of the verb". These particular present participle forms are being used as main verbs in two gerund clauses that are the object of the transitivizing preposition about (or alternatively the object of the transitivized verb think about). Gerund clauses are one use of the present participle form; there are at least half a dozen. – John Lawler Aug 26 '14 at 15:50
  • @JohnLawler But 'thinking' in this example is a straightforward present participle. Right? – WS2 Aug 26 '14 at 17:04
  • @WS2 Any verb form ending in -ing is the present participle form of that verb. Is that straightforward enough, or did you mean something else? – John Lawler Aug 26 '14 at 18:10

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