1. I forgot to get my keys when I was leaving my apartment.

  2. I forgot to get my keys leaving my apartment.


Leaving my apartment, I forgot to get my keys.

I'm curious about the ing-verb forms and how they're used. I see people dropping out When I was/ while I was.. all the time, like when constructing sentences like "I was walking the streets talking over the phone with my friend.." where we're talking about doing two, or more than two things at the same time.

The two sentences in the second example (the one with the or) probably don't mean the same as the first one, and is probably grammatically incorrect.

  • And what is your problem ? Would you ask a very clear question ?
    – Cardinal
    Mar 30, 2016 at 21:25
  • The website Grammar Quizzes has some excellent information on -ing forms and their use, especially regarding the absence of 'when' and 'while'. Mar 31, 2016 at 3:07
  • 1
    @AlanCarmack, thank you so much. :D This really helps, although if i end up having further questions, i can't help, but post them as questions here. :p Mar 31, 2016 at 8:19
  • @Cardinal, i was talking about the ing- verb forms when we drop out 'when' or' 'while'. Mar 31, 2016 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


All of your examples are grammatical, but your #2 examples run into the dangling modifier problem. Compare your examples to these

  1. I saw my cat while I was leaving the apartment.
  2. I saw my cat leaving the apartment.
  3. Leaving the apartment, I saw my cat.

In this case, 1 and 3 mean the same thing, but 2 means that your cat was leaving the apartment and you saw it. In sentences like your first #2 example, "Leaving the apartment" is said to be a "dangling" modifier because its position suggests that it modifies "my keys" but the context makes it clear that it modifies "I."

I consider dangling modifiers more to be bad writing than a grammatical error. In speech, they are very common. (Your first #2 example is more natural in speech than the second one, I would say.)

The wordier form is the clearest and least ambiguous. But it is wordier. Sometimes terse is better, and sometimes it isn't. But it's more a matter of style than meaning.

  • I actually am more curious about dropping the while i was part, i mean i'm just curious about it. xD It's like, i know i can express something a certain way, but i want my options of how i'm expressing it, the construction i'm using not to be as limited. Mar 31, 2016 at 8:14
  • If you had used "I saw my cat, leaving the apartment." would that have made any difference? Mar 31, 2016 at 8:15
  • The comma wouldn't have helped much - just makes it look like you are afflicted by excess-comma-disease.
    – Adam
    Mar 31, 2016 at 15:16

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