There is this rule in a grammar book:

"We often use without + -ing to say that we are surprised that an action does not happen because we expect it to happen."

But no example is given. Can you think of any example for this rule?

  • The rule the book gives is not really accurate. A phrase like that doesn't mean that you're surprised. It does imply that it's worth mentioning, since you're mentioning it. (Of course, this is true for anything you write or say, not just this construction.) It might be because it's surprising, but it might not.
    – Peeja
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 20:18

3 Answers 3


A somewhat long-winded example, but it feels natural to me:

I was so proud when my 5-year-old was finally able to read a complete sentence smoothly, without stopping to sound out individual letters and words.


Bob touched the spider without flinching.

Carlos walked to the door without seeing

Carlos walked to the door without being able to see.

Dave cooked without cleaning.

Ted farted without apologizing.


It is also used as a variation on a giving a reason.

'Without knowing the time, I can't tell you if you are late or not' equals 'Because I don't know the time...''

We can make the past form we use the auxiliary 'having + the past participle. It acts like a mixed conditional with the main clause being either past or present. eg: 'Without having known the time, I couldn't have told you ( or I couldn't tell you) if you were late or not'

'Without having been to that restaurant, I can't say if it is good or not'

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