We can describe two things we do in one time with a participle construction like the following sentence:

We had a chat drinking a cup of coffee.

However, we may also describe the same situation with "over" as follows:

We had a chat over a cup of coffee.

Is there any difference between these sentences?

I know "over a cup of coffee" is a common expression which means "during [while drinking] a cup of coffee", but "drinking" and "over" are probably different in word class. I would like to understand why these sentences can describe the same situation (or not the same).

Thanks in advance.

  • Sorry. I do not think the previous question can answer my question. – Rui O'tomawy Oct 30 '19 at 17:37
  • The second part of the accepted answer seems to address exactly this to my eye? Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but I believe your question will need editing to explain why that doesn't answer your question as it is not clear as it stands – Bee Oct 30 '19 at 17:40
  • I overlooked the accepted answer's explanation that using participles (or while) sounds awkward or stilted. Also the participle "drinking" and the preposition "over" have the same role...is my interpretation correct? If so, my question is duplicate. I am so sorry to confuse you. – Rui O'tomawy Oct 30 '19 at 18:01
  • In your question, "We had a chat drinking a cup of coffee." I believe can only be interpreted as "We had a chat whilst drinking a cup of coffee." Where the "whilst" is omitted (which is quite common in colloquial speak when the meaning is implicit and well understood). I believe that the two do mean the same thing, for that reason. Over is far more common in my experience (BrE). – Bee Oct 30 '19 at 18:05
  • I agree Bee's linked duplicate question helps address your question, but I want to clarify that "over", in this case, does not necessarily imply anyone is actually going to drink the tea. "Over" is a colloquialism that implies the action takes place above and around the cups of tea, but does not require that anyone do anything with the tea. It only requires that tea be present. I don't know why anyone would pour a perfectly good cup of tea and not drink it, but sometimes the conversation is so engrossing the tea becomes an afterthought. – Andrew Oct 30 '19 at 21:35

We had a chat (while) drinking a cup of coffee.

This describes two activities taking place at the same time.

We had a chat over a cup of coffee.

This expresses the coffee as the context in which the chat took place. You might think of the coffee as the foundation ("underneath") of the chat, hence, the chat is described as being "over" the coffee.

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