Waiting for John, I made some tea. [1]

I have a participle clause above and I want to find the original clause. The sentence is from this link. I have two choices presented as follows:

While I was waiting for John, I made some tea. [2]

As I waited for John, I made some tea. [3]

First of all, which choice is correct?

Secondly, if I change [2] into [4], does the sentence have the same meaning as in [1]:

While I was waiting for John, I was making some tea. [4]

Please help me.

1 Answer 1


There is no 'original clause': that formulation is a useful fiction for understanding what the sentence means, not a historical fact.

But your paraphrases do represent how we interpret the clause. In this particular case, both paraphrases mean exactly the same thing, because wait is what we call an 'activity' verb: it has the lexical aspect "+DUR, -TEL", meaning that (other things being equal) its action lasts over time and does not necessarily end in a change of state. Consequently, the progressive construction doesn't really add anything which is not already implicit in the word itself.

However, paraphrasing I made some tea as I was making some tea changes the meaning of the main clause. Make is an 'accomplishment' verb, +DUR, +TEL, its action lasts over time and does end in a change of state—at the end of the process you have tea you can drink, whereas before and during the process you had at best some water and some tea leaves! Consequently, the simple past I made some tea implies 'perfective' viewpoint aspect (consult the same link)—the action was completed at the time you are talking about, while you were waiting for John. But the progressive version implies that you were still in the middle of the process when something else happened, which is presumably what you are going to tell us about next.

  • Thanks for your great explanation. I have one more question. Can you explain the sentence [3] for me? I often use when, however I think as is diffrent in such a case. Apr 15, 2017 at 4:00
  • Some sources say sentence [1] expresses that an action happens at the same time as the action in the main clause. For me, the two following sentences are the same: While I was waiting for John, I made some tea. [1] I was waiting for John, when I made some tea. [2] It is one usage of Past Continuos in which one action happens in a longer period of them than the other one. So, I am wondering the usage of two simulataneous actions is still true for this case? Apr 15, 2017 at 4:14
  • @HồQuangTrung In the context of your question I interpret as to mean the same thing as =*when*; but as may also have the alternative sense because. ... [1] and [2] in your comment describe the same situation, but they make very different assertions: [1] presupposes your waiting for John and asserts your making tea as new information; [2] appears to presuppose your making tea and asserts your waiting for John as new information. (But in [2] the comma makes parsing the situation ambiguous: ... (more) Apr 15, 2017 at 10:41
  • ... it allows the reader to parse the when clause as a supplement, which would mean that you have two consecutive assertions--"I was waiting for John, and [after a while] I made some tea." Apr 15, 2017 at 10:43

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