There are three sentences.

  1. He watched TV reading the book. (with no comma between TV and reading)
  2. He watched TV, reading the book. (with a comma between TV and reading)
  3. He watched TV to read the book. (with 'to' between 'TV' and 'reading')

I think that the intervals in the sentences vary by comma or to.

For example, I think that there is no time interval between 'the verb' watch and read in the first sentence (He watched TV reading the book.)

And there is some time interval between 'the verb' watch and read in the first sentence (He watched TV, reading the book.) And there is so much time interval between 'the verb' watch and read in the first sentence (He watched TV to read the book.)

Am I right?

  • 1
    I believe the question is: "I think that in 1, the two actions happen concurrently; in 2 the two actions happen serially; in 3, the two actions happen serially and are separated by a lengthy period. Correct?" – Jim Reynolds Mar 1 '15 at 16:59
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    The third sentence does not make sense. To does not have a purely temporal meaning, it means purpose: it says that the purpose of reading the book was to watch TV, which makes no sense. – Colin Fine Mar 1 '15 at 18:41
  • Would there be people anywhere in this world who would watch TV to read a book? Wouldn't that be like saying "I supported the Shah of Iran to support the Iranian Revolution" ? – Blessed Geek Mar 1 '15 at 23:26
  1. He walked into the room and noticed that his TV set had sprouted hands and arms and was holding up a book to read it. 'How unusual', he thought.

  2. He was a very odd person in having independently directable eyes, like certain lizards, and he kept one eye trained on his TV while using the other eye to read his book.

  3. By prior arrangement with the TV station, an announcer was holding the book up to the TV camera and turning the pages slowly, one by one, so that he (the TV viewer) was able to read the book in this unusual way.

  • Probably justifiable. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 1 '15 at 16:59
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    My sentiments exactly :) For 3., perhaps the announcer was reading the book out loud, so that the TV viewers could follow along (because they haven't actually learned to read yet)? No time lapse implied by the comma or preposition in any case. – ScotM Mar 1 '15 at 22:17
  • Apart from being a very good explanation, it's a shame that (to me) it sounds almost mocking. For somebody obviously struggling with a foreign language, there are kinder and more sensitive ways of answering. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '15 at 9:10
  • Although the more I read this answer, the more I like it. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '15 at 12:33
  • I learned from George Lakoff that often the problems with constructions that people think are grammatical are actually semantic. They have only prosaic situations in mind when they interpret an example sentence. Lakoff suggested that grammars generate sentences with associated presuppositions. – Greg Lee Mar 2 '15 at 12:50

The first and third sentences do not make much sense. They are understandable, however they aren't just describing "time intervals". In particular the third sentence does not make sense.

The sentence would be better formulated as something like the following:

While watching TV, he read the book.

He was watching TV while reading the book.

He read the book while watching TV.

E: After the question was cleaned up they make a bit more sense. However the second statement is still the most correct.

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