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Today I watched an episode from the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon (a character) says, "She returned to her apartment. I presume to shower and vomit. Not necessarily in that order"

That got me thinking about the use of "and".

Does "and" imply the order of actions?

For example,

(1)

A: What happened to her?

B: She showered and vomited.

Does this imply she showered first and then vomited?

(2)

Peter: I am going to my friend's place to play games, watch movies, and eat sweets.

Does this imply Peter will play games first, then watch movies, and finally eat sweets?

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  • It could do (hence Sheldon's comment), but it doesn't have to. Presumably Peter expects to be eating sweets while enjoying the other two activities. Mar 5, 2021 at 9:48

1 Answer 1

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Any time you read a list in English, there is an implication of a sequence, though only weakly.

In your final example, it is clear from the context that Peter intends to do all three things more or less simultaneously, since there is no physical reason to prevent this.

In Sheldon's case, (or rather Penny's case, iirc) it is reasonable to assume that the two activities would NOT occur entirely simultaneously, so there is an implied assumption that the two things would be sequential, 'left to right', an that implication is strong enough that Sheldon immediately (somewhat pedantically - inline with his character) feels the need to clarify that the implication is invalid.

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  • Example (2), Peter's case, to me, it sounds like Peter will just do those three things, without a sequence implied. Does it sound like that to you, too? And at the end of the day, we have to tell whether a sequence is implied by understanding the context even though as you said, a list often implies a sequence weakly, right?
    – vincentlin
    Mar 5, 2021 at 17:05
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    Yes, it is probable that Peter will do those three things in a pseudo-random order, but with such a list there is ALWAYS an implied left to right sequence or priority (or both). Often there is no such order in real life, but the implication is always there.
    – MikeB
    Mar 8, 2021 at 9:44
  • Pseudo-random? Is it a computer science term? Very funny comment. Thanks for explaining and clearing my confusion.
    – vincentlin
    Mar 8, 2021 at 15:48
  • Yes, 'pseudo random' is an engineering term (mainly computer science though) for something that cannot easily be predicted, but has more constraints or pattern than a truly random event. Bit of a tautology really - NOTHING is random if you dig deep enough!!
    – MikeB
    Mar 8, 2021 at 17:41

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