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These two sentences are from TOEFL speaking (tpo40):

(1) I got to know a lot of people in my dorm during my first semester just watching TV and taking study breaks in the lounge.

(2). If students knew about rideshares, they could save money getting to campus because a few of them could travel in one car.

These "doing something" make no sense to me. For example, does the first sentence mean "when I was just watching tv and taking breaks?" And does the second one mean "by/through getting to campus?"

Besides, what's the grammar behind these two sentences? I feel like they're more like being combined together haphazardly than based on grammar.

2 Answers 2

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These are grammatically correct sentences. They are indeed a little hard to parse (particularly for a nonnative speaker) since they are (as you note) somewhat haphazardly constructed.

The first explains that the time spent in the lounge watching TV and taking study breaks was how the speaker got to know a lot of people. If they had just stayed in their room studying they would not have met other students.

The second says that students could save commuting costs if they figured out how several could ride at once in one car.

(In the first example I have used the singular first person "they" to refer to that student. I don't know how TOEFL is dealing with current controversy in English about those pronouns. In years past I'd have written "If he or she had ...".)

Edit in response to comment.

I'm not a grammar expert. I just know what sounds right. Here are my best grammar guesses.

In the first example,

just watching TV and taking study breaks in the lounge.

is the object of the prepositional phrase that starts with an implicit "by".

In the second,

getting to campus

is not how they save money. That would be by knowing about rideshare. The sentence assumes you know implicitly that

They are getting to campus in separate cars.

So "getting to campus" is the object of the verb in that implicit separate sentence.

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  • First, thanks for your help! What I'm concerned about here is how they're grammartically correct since they're definitely correct (after all they're from ETS). And here is my understanding: "doing something" here plays a role similar to adverbs. For example, "watching tv and taking study breaks" describes how this guy spent his time in the lounge; "getting to campus" describes how students save money. But personally, I still can't accept the second one because it always gives me an unnecessary feeling. Why not just say "they could save money because ..."?
    – babeimi
    Apr 28, 2022 at 3:55
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You could rephrase these two sentences as:

(1) In my first semester of college, I got to know people in my dorm because I was spending time in the dorm lounge, just watching TV there or taking study breaks.

(2) Students could be saving money on their commute to campus if they knew about rideshare services and used them to carpool.

And as far as "more like being combined together haphazardly than based on grammar" -- that's what's beautiful about language! It is how it's spoken and it's spoken haphazardly.

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