Do you say in English watering vegetables? For example in a garden?
Or do you say only watering the flowers?

Does the following sentence make sense in English?

They’ll be doing exercises outside when Rebecca starts watering vegetables.

  • In my mind "watering" as used here envisions watering such plants from above the ground (say from a watering pot), which is OK for flowers but usually not done with vegetables. For vegetables I would use "irrigate" or "put the water on" which mean adding water at ground level. – user3169 Jun 30 '18 at 2:55
  • @user3169 -- In California, the ditchtenders who distribute irrigation water use phrases like "water the grapes" synonymously with "irrigate the grapes", regardless of whether the farmer has a drip system, a sprinkler system, or just uses "flood irrigation". – Jasper Feb 7 '19 at 7:40

The sentence that makes most sense is

They’ll be doing exercises outside when Rebecca starts watering the vegetables.

Unless watering vegetables is some specific activity, which I've never heard of but may exist or is some personal activity that Rebecca enjoys.

For example

They’ll be doing exercises outside when Rebecca starts watering vegetables. It helps her relax.

There is a very subtle distinction here. It's not any specific vegetables, even those in the garden. It's just that Rebecca likes to water vegetables, whatever vegetables are available.

A similar construct would be

Rebecca likes to water vegetables in the afternoon to help her relax.

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In accordance with your own example, from a purely grammatical point of view it should be:

... when Rebecca starts watering the vegetables.

Now, as for usage, this specific phrase does seem to be a bit unusual, I believe mostly because the word vegetables by itself is more commonly used to refer to the harvested produce, ie. when they no longer need watering. People will understand what you mean but might need a double take.

Common alternatives from around the web:

... when Rebecca starts watering the vegetable garden.

... when Rebecca starts watering the vegetable plants.

Both of these specify that you are not talking about the harvested produce.

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  • 2
    I disagree that the use of "watering the vegetables" would prompt a double-take, and see no need to append a word like plants or garden for clarification. This usage is far from "unusual," and fits well within standard dictionary definitions of the word. – J.R. Jun 29 '18 at 9:20
  • 1
    I have heard 'watering the vegetables' used in Britain as a jocular euphemism for urination. – Michael Harvey Jun 29 '18 at 10:17
  • Many (UK and former colony) speakers are likely to use watering the veges as the popular shorthand for vegetables. You are also likely to come across the phrase: meat and three veg referring to a meal in which three varieties of vegetable are served with meat. thekitchencoach.com.au/blogmain/meat-three-veg-is-bad-for-you bite.co.nz/hot-topics/in-season/2264/… – Ronald Sole Jun 29 '18 at 14:42
  • I was going to upvote this until I read the longer comments around how watering the vegetables sounds odd (it doesn't) and how watering the vegetable plants would be a more common alternative (in no way at all). See this. The statements are wrong even for the US specifically. – Jason Bassford Jun 29 '18 at 17:15

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