1. She had nothing to eat except drink water

  2. She had nothing to eat except to drink water?

  3. She had nothing to eat except drinking water

Are all the above sentences grammatical? IF So, What is the difference between those sentences?

  • You can't 'eat' water. She had nothing to eat or drink except water. Dec 27, 2019 at 11:16
  • @MichaelHarvey Tankyou. SO by your comment I got that 3rd sentence is wrong. Could you please explain what 1st and 2nd sentences mean? Dec 27, 2019 at 11:46
  • All three sentences are wrong, because you cannot eat water. You eat solid food, and drink liquids. Dec 27, 2019 at 12:00
  • After 'nothing to eat except' you need a noun. 'Drink' and 'to drink' are verbs, so (1) and (2) are wrong. You could say 'she had nothing to eat except bread'. By grammar, then, only (3) is right, but it is nonsense because you do not eat water. You could say 'she had nothing to drink except water' or even 'she had nothing to eat except bread, and nothing to drink except water'. Dec 27, 2019 at 12:15
  • @MichaelHarvey I think that both one and two are correct, if you're parsing "drink water" as one noun phrase in number one (and while I don't think it currently has a meaning, I could see it as a neologism referring to some sort of alcoholic water product), and I think that the second one would also be correct, if you parse it as something like "nothing to [verb A] except to [verb B]" - something like "nothing left to count, except to tally some electronic transactions".
    – nick012000
    Dec 27, 2019 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


All of these are grammatically correct, though the first one would require a neologism.

In the first case, you're saying you've had nothing to eat, except something called "drink water". As far as I know, "drink water" isn't the name of a food, though I could see someone adopting it as the name for some sort of alcoholic water product ("drink" as a noun is used to refer to alcoholic beverages).

In the second case, you're saying that you had nothing to eat, other than some water to drink - you're providing an exception to the verb, by linking another verb in (not sure what the formal name for this grammatical construction is). An example of something similar would be someone who's counting money at the end of a business day saying "there's nothing left to count, except to tally up some electronic transfers".

In the third case, you're saying that they had nothing to eat, except something called "drinking water". Drinking water is a well-known noun phrase used to refer to water suitable for human consumption, so this works grammatically.

However, as some of the comments have pointed out, you would typically say "nothing to eat or drink" in this context, since you eat solid foods and drink fluids. That said, even native speakers don't speak English perfectly all the time, and this would be within the bounds for someone speaking (though generally not writing, except in written depictions of characters speaking).

  • Not sure why I’m being downvoted. Would the person who did it please explain how they think I could improve it?
    – nick012000
    Dec 27, 2019 at 20:25
  • When I started here, I used to plaintively ask in comments why I'd been downvoted. Now I just delete the offending answer and move on. Dec 27, 2019 at 23:30
  • @MichaelHarvey I'm not going to delete something that'll help somebody else, and deleting an answer and reposting it to clear away downvotes probably breaks rules.
    – nick012000
    Dec 28, 2019 at 0:02
  • Oh, I absolutely agree. I would never delete an answer and re-post it, to clear downvotes. What I meant was, I'd just obliterate it. Dec 28, 2019 at 8:13

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