I'm trying to find mistakes in this sentence and even the corrected versions do not sound grammatically correct.

Original sentence:

  1. He was drinking coffee and left the café to catch his bus.

My suggested corrections:

  1. He was drinking coffee when he left the café to catch his bus.
  2. He drank the coffee, then left the café to catch his bus.

Are all these sentences grammatically wrong?

  • Are all these sentences grammatically wrong? – Maira Raheel Apr 12 '15 at 13:34
  • 2
    The original sentence is the best one; the second means he was drinking while he was running, not just while he was in the cafe. The third one states the actions in sequence, but leaves the connections to the listener. There's nothing wrong with any of them, and complaints about "sequence of tenses" are referring to zombie rules. – John Lawler Apr 12 '15 at 14:31
  • If you can give some more context, we can probably give you some more detailed suggestions. Depending on what you want to say, maybe: Looking at his watch, he gulped down his coffee and left the cafe to catch his bus. For more comprehensive advice, try asking on writers.stackexchange.com. For basic grammar questions, consider English Language Learners SE ell.stackexchange.com – Jim Reynolds Apr 12 '15 at 14:33
  • To me this is the simplest: "He drank his coffee and left the café to catch the/his bus" – Mari-Lou A Apr 12 '15 at 14:50
  • The first one sounds like he left part of his coffee unfinished, while the third clearly indicates that he finished his coffee. – Peter Shor Apr 12 '15 at 16:05

No, they are not grammatically wrong. The first two, especially, are just unclear and are confusing the reader. The logic of the actions is not transparent.

E.g., we are not sure whether he still carries the cup of coffee in his hands while running for the bus.

Or whether, alternatively, he stood up, took a last sip, placed the cup on the table (or threw it to the ground, being /nervous/on edge/), and starting running.

The reader is not helped to visualize the scene or to feel the emotions or thinking of the character. Surely, that might come in other sentences. Cf:

McClure's Magazine ... - Volume 50 - Page 20 1917

He ate the sandwich and drank the coffee. Then he got up. The ague was gone. He was going out of this sordid hole forever. He was through. But he stopped at the bar for a moment. He couldn't go away without saying a word to Mary,

The last one is not wrong in terms of the above, it's clear; it's just bland, not original, writing. Read Nabokov, Lectures of Literature, to understand what great writing is all about from one of the masters. You'll have to read several great novels in the process:-)

You may also consider joining this writer's forum, in order to have your pieces critiqued line by line :-)


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