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The speaker gave a nervous cough before starting her talk.

The speaker coughed nervously before starting her talk.

Which one of the above two sounds more natural to you? Thanks.
Comments  
the second one.
The first one.
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The speaker gave a nervous cough before starting her talk. One instance of coughing.

The speaker coughed nervously before starting her talk. Probably, several coughs.
I seem to be in the minority. Perhaps I should have explained more clearly in my reply. My problem is with the choice of the verb "give." To "give a cough," means to pass it on to someone else. Ex: Fortunately I didn't catch the virus that's going around but someone at work must have given me his cough. Something tells me there will be people who will still disagree with me but I think if you want to avoid "coughed nervously," you may want to use a different expression like "cleared her throat nervously."
>To "give a cough," means to pass it on to someone else

No, that's valid only for viruses, etc.
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The speaker gave a nervous cough before starting her talk.

The speaker coughed nervously before starting her talk.

I think both of these are fine.

Yes, you can talk about "giving someone your cough" in the sense of transmitting an illness. But "give" can also mean "to emit or utter" -- you can "give" a cry, a squeak, a laugh, a cough. I don't think a native speaker would confuse the two meanings and think that the speaker made everyone else sick!
AngliholicThe speaker gave a nervous cough before starting her talk.

The speaker coughed nervously before starting her talk.

Which one of the above two sounds more natural to you? Thanks.
Either could be correct. But as for 'natural', the first one, definitely.
Thank you, my helpful friends, for your discussion.

I'm no more confused.
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