Today I've read a sentence saying "He parked, waited for me to catch up and ran off again".

I asked if I could say "He parked, waiting for me to catch up" to emphasize the actual action of waiting an undefinite amount of time but my teacher said it's just plain wrong.

Is there a practical rule I could follow?

  • 4
    You're right. Your teacher is wrong. – Hot Licks Oct 24 '18 at 12:39

In the original sentence, there are three actions:

  • he parked
  • he waited
  • he ran off again

Because the same person did all three actions, the verbs should all take the same tense and then the sentence can be structured as a set of parallel actions, reducing away the pronoun at the beginning.

In your modified sentence, there are only two actions:

  • he parked (and in doing so, he was waiting)
  • he ran off again

By using waiting instead of waited, you have converted the second action into an explanatory aside. (If this was not your intention, then you have just violated the requirements of the parallel structure, which is probably what your teacher meant by calling it "plain wrong.") And when you do that, it becomes a non-essential piece of the sentence that must be set off by commas at both ends:

He parked, waiting for me to catch up, and ran off again.

However, this is still awkward because the aside really doesn't accomplish your goal of expressing "an indefinite amount of time"; it just makes the sentence look like it has lost its parallelism. To clarify that "waiting" is not an incorrect verb, you really need to insert an extra then to emphasize the fact that there were only two actions:

He parked, waiting for me to catch up, and then ran off again.

  • As a matter of fact, I know that in the context of THAT exercise it was wrong, but as usual you are left with many questions about how much you can modify the semantics of the sentence to express similar but different concepts. Indeed I thought about the necessity of a "then" afterwards but my question (abruptly declined with unwelcoming laughs by the class) was how could I change the ta-ta-ta rhythm of the sentence to convey more emphasis on the "wait" part. Your explation is clear and really better w.r.t. that given by my english teacher. – Vincenzo Maggio Oct 24 '18 at 13:27
  • In fact, even with the extra then, it still kinda looks like it is an incorrect parallel structure. If you really want to emphasize the 'wait' part, perhaps saying "he parked, waited a while for me to catch up, and ran off again" would be better? – Hellion Oct 24 '18 at 13:36
  • Yes, maybe it's better considering also that if I remember correctly the exact sentence was "waited UNTIL I catched up". The main problem here was that she explained nothing about parallel structures even if in Italian we do have that except for the fact we can use something corresponding to the "-ing" form with a slighty different meaning which is what I was trying to express to her. – Vincenzo Maggio Oct 24 '18 at 13:39
  • So I was like "good, I can translate one to one to Italian with the same meaning but I cannot translate the second Italian meaning back to English". Luckily you provided a good workaround for that form. Thanks! :) – Vincenzo Maggio Oct 24 '18 at 13:42
  • 1
    @JasonBassford for me, the "again" is not a problem; it simply implies that before he parked, he had already run off once. (We already know that he's ahead of us, or he wouldn't have to wait; the "again" gives the impression that he got ahead by running off, instead of by some other means.) – Hellion Oct 24 '18 at 15:39

That's fully correct, I don't know why your teacher thought it wasn't. The sentence itself feels awkward (only a bit though, don't worry), so maybe he or she meant that?

  • @Hellion did a good job of explaining the awkardness and what would be a correct way of saying what I wanted to say. Even in Italian we have some correct but horribly sounding sentences so in the end I don't understand the "test says that, rule says that, either you just apply that or you're a moron" approach of my teacher. – Vincenzo Maggio Oct 24 '18 at 13:34

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