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  1. I had a bad experience working there.

Is that sentence correct, or must I write:

  1. I had a bad experience when working there.
  2. I had a bad experience while working there.

or even:

  1. I had a bad experience while I was working there.
  2. I had a bad experience when I worked there.

It seems like sometimes gerund–participle clauses (meaning -ing clauses) can be directly used in an adverbial way, without any sort of conjunction or preposition joining them to the rest of the sentence.

  1. Working there, I developed a real sweet tooth.
  2. While working there, I developed a real sweet tooth.
  3. By working there, I developed a real sweet tooth.
  4. I developed a real sweet tooth working there.
  5. I developed a real sweet tooth while working there.
  6. I developed a real sweet tooth by working there.

Are there rules governing when you can use a gerund clause on its own like this without a connecting word?

  • All of these gerund clauses refer to time periods, so the when or while can be deleted without changing anything. However, not all gerund clauses refer to time periods. – John Lawler Jun 23 '18 at 16:47
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The additional words you are using all add meaning to the sentence.

'When' indicates a there was a specific time in the past (although it is not specified).

'While' indicates it occurred during the course of a broader time in the past.

'By' indicates it was the cause of the experience.

The rule would be that you use a connecting word that adds the correct additional meaning, or don't if the meaning is sufficient.

-1

I'm answering as one who cares about effective communication, not as a grammarian.

It hits my ear as ambiguous. Possible meanings:

  • "There is a bad experience in play here (working here)."
  • Or, "As a result of my on-going status of being employed where (working here), I have this history, this bad experience."

I suspect you intended the second meaning. I might have said instead:

  • "I had a bad experience working here."
  • Or, "I had a bad experience while working here."

Either avoids the ambiguity, and keeps the reader moving along without having to work to resolve your intended meaning.

  • It would appear my focus on eliminating ambiguity in language was not appreciated by one drive-by voter. I would have appreciated them posting a comment as to why they were not compelled the same argument as I was. A shame. – ZenGeekDad Jul 4 '18 at 16:41

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