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My friend, who's really good at studies, had a mental breakdown while writing yesterday's physics test.

Now, what I want to know is, in constructions like the one above, can we drop the "While" before the "Writing" ?

My friend, who's really good at studies, had a mental breakdown writing yesterday's physics test.


He was talking over the phone, and watching tv at the same time - He was talking over the phone watching tv.

^ Is the above illustration grammatically correct?

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In colloquial American speech while is frequently dropped in the presence of the present participle.

We got a flat tire driving to Boston.

Driving to Boston we got a flat tire.

With driving it is abundantly clear that we're speaking of an action that occurs over a period of time; while would corroborate the meaning but is not required to establish the meaning.

Americans would probably say "taking the test" not "writing the test". This would be idiomatic colloquial speech:

He had a mental breakdown taking the test.

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"While" is preferable to connect the two parts of the sentence.

My friend had a mental breakdown writing yesterday's physics test.

The sentence looks awkward with "writing" so you can change it to "taking."

But then you could say "after taking" or "while taking" depending on context.

You need "and" to create parallelism.

The full sentence:

He was talking over the phone and he was watching tv.

The verb is redundant so we can simplify it to:

He was talking over the phone and watching tv.

Note that you can also say:

He was talking over the phone while watching tv.

Both "and" and "while" link the two parts well.

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It might depend whether you intended to link the writing of the test to the breakdown.

If you said: "had the breakdown while writing the test", it means that the breakdown happened at that time, but they weren't necessarily connected.

However, if you said "had the breakdown writing the test", it suggests that the act of writing the test caused the breakdown.

One other thing - if your friend was a teacher, you might say they were "writing the test". However, if they are the student, you would say they were "taking the test", or "doing the test". "Writing the test" is not a normal way to describe what the student is doing.

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