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I traveled from Houston to Dallas last August. If you ask me how I got there, I may say:

A. I was riding in a bus with air conditioner.

B. I was riding in a bus with air conditioning.

C. I was riding in an air-conditioned bus.

Do any of the sentences have problems?

Which one do you think makes most sense to you? Or which one sounds more natural?

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  • 1
    If I ask you how you got there, I would expect you to begin any of your phrases with "I rode a ....." "Was riding" would be used if you want to set a time frame in the past and tell about events that happened in the middle of it. If, for example, I ask you where you were when you learned how to blow spit-bubbles, then I might expect you to begin with "I was riding in...."
    – Adam
    Mar 6, 2015 at 23:37
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    Air conditioning is very common in the United States, especially in motor vehicles. Most Americans would be surprised if an inter-city bus did not have air conditioning. Furthermore, most Americans would expect a bus in Texas in the summer to need air conditioning -- eastern Texas has hot and humid summers.
    – Jasper
    Mar 7, 2015 at 6:57

2 Answers 2

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An "air conditioner" is a physical unit, and so needs an article. Sentence A needs to be changed to "a bus with an air conditioner".

Otherwise, all 3 sentences make perfect sense, but A is the least likely to be used. The reason is that, as such, it is ambiguous. After all, the next sentence could be, "Unfortunately, the bloody thing was broken, and I sweated all the way."

Although the same could be said of sentence B, since "air conditioning" is a noun which describes a process/result, such ambiguity is very unlikely in practice.

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Two of the three are fine 'as is", but they may not be correct depending on the tense of the conversation. Looking at each sentence:

B. I was riding in a bus with air conditioning.

This is fine- although there should be a hyphen between "air" and 'conditioning". Although most people and general spelling and written usage does not put one there, it is standard to do so based on the parts-of-speech of both words. The industry trade association for air-conditioning uses a hyphen too.

C. I was riding in an air-conditioned bus.

This is fine as constructed.

A. I was riding in a bus with air conditioner.

As constructed, this sentence is structurally grammatical, but does not make sense. You could change it to one of the following:

*A. I was riding in a bus with [an] air conditioner.*

This reconstructed sentence could mean any of the following:

  • you were on a bus and it had an air-conditioning unit installed that cooled the air;
  • you were on a bus and it had an air-conditioning unit physically on the bus (but this says nothing about the temperature of the air on the bus.

The article I used [an] is only an example. However, if you use another article it may radically change the meaning of the sentence.

In addition to being mindful of verb tense [ride/rode/riding/ridden] and articles [a/an/the], you may also consider the preposition that you use. In general usage, you are more likely to use "on a bus" rather than "in a bus". However there are instances where "in" is more appropriate or when both in and on are both appropriate and interchangeable.

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