I was sitting in my room, reading a book, drinking a cup of tea.

About 'reading' and 'drinking', are they: (1) a series of past progressive forms or (2) adverbial participles? And how do you cross out the other possibility when you choose either (1) or (2)?
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Hi Taka,

Your sentence: I was sitting in my room, reading a book, [and ]drinking a cup of tea.

Reading and drinking are past progressive. You were sitting in the room, reading and drinking a cup of tea (when xxx arrived at my door). The tone of this sentence was set up to detail what you were doing as something else happened which seemed to be missing. So they are not participle clauses.
Hmm...then what about this one?

She was alone in the corner, reading a book, smoking a cigarette.

Do you think 'reading' and 'smoking' here are also past progressive?
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Absolutely!

She was alone in the corner, reading a book, [while/ and ] smoking a cigarette.

She was alone in the corner, reading a book, smoking a cigarette. as is, it's incorrect
Won't that interpretation break the parallelism?

She was +(alone in the corner: a prepositional phrase)+(reading a book: past progressive)+(smoking a cigarette: past progressive).

1. I was sitting in my room, reading a book, drinking a cup of tea.

Interesting. I would tend towards interpreting them as participles, post-modifying "I". Cf:

2. Reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, I was sitting in my room.

"I was sitting" in #1 looks at the action from the perspective of the speaker's now; but I understand "reading" and "drinking" as "from the perspective of the speaker's then".

MrP
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Hi Taka,

I agree with MrP.

Clive
MrPedantic1. I was sitting in my room, reading a book, drinking a cup of tea.

Interesting. I would tend towards interpreting them as participles, post-modifying "I". Cf:

2. Reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, I was sitting in my room.

"I was sitting" in #1 looks at the action from the perspective of the speaker's now; but I understand "reading" and "drinking" as "from the perspective of the speaker's then".

MrP

Hi MrP,

Um…….After reading your post and looking at the sentences again, I think you are right. But what if my friend asked me “what were you doing last nigh when I called?” and I replied “ I was reading a book in my room and having a cup of tea”. Is that that same context as the question in discussion? The only difference is the comma which makes reading a book and drink a cup of tea a participle clause, Is this a reasonable argument?



Hello Goodman

Yes, that sounds reasonable – the equivalent of the original would be:

1. I was sitting in my room last night and (I was) reading a book and (I was) smoking a cigarette.

where "I was" is omitted.

But it also occurs to me that it might be possible to use intonation to force a reading where "reading" and "smoking" were parts of the past progressive tense. I'm not sure how to convey that here, though; unless:

2. I was sitting in my room – reading – smoking.

This seems to require a very strong and equal stress on the first syllables of "sitting", "reading" and "smoking".

But I may be imagining it...

MrP
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