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Hi

Please could you help me understand which is the correct sentence and why?

(a) 'He couldn't untie his laces and take off his shoes'

or

(b) 'He couldn't untie his laces to take off his shoes'


Although the difference is just 'and' and 'to', (a) doesn't sound correct to me but I cannot explain the grammatical reason as to why.

Can anyone assist?

Thanks

Chris

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chrishemingwayAlthough the difference is just 'and' and 'or'

Actually, the difference is just 'and' and 'to'. Typo? Where? In the header or in the example?

chrishemingwayPlease could you help me understand which is the correct sentence and why?

Both are correct. (Or all three are correct.) It depends what you mean.

With 'and' he couldn't do two things. He couldn't untie ..., and he couldn't take off .... [ Here there is the suggestion that one thing follows the other. ]

With 'to' he couldn't do one thing. He couldn't untie ..., and the reason he wanted to untie ... was to take off ....

[ With 'or' the interpretation is essentially the same as with 'and'. It's just that with 'or' you separate the two tasks to remove the suggestion that one follows the other. ]

CJ

Comments  

Nor correct:

"He couldn't untie his laces and take off his shoes."

The implied sentence is "He couldn't untie his laces and he couldn't take off his shoes."

This does not indicate the two actions are absolutely connected. You could easily say "He couldn't untie his laces and (he couldn't) play the piano."

Many native speakers will say a) He couldn't untie his laces and take off his shoes.

But just because native speakers will say this, it does not make it correct!

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chrishemingway(a) 'He couldn't untie his laces and take off his shoes'

If you must start the sentence that way, this is right. Sequence is implied by "and". "To" drives the tack with a sledgehammer.

https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/american/and

"2. used for showing that one thing happens after another He turned off the television and went to bed."

I agree with you. Sometimes I have to think about whether we (native speakers) are speaking English correctly or whether we are perpetuating poor grammar.

"And" does imply sequence. You are correct. "I went to the store and to the bank and came home." That implies sequence. However, I can also say, "I went to the store, then the bank, then came home." I also need to say that speaking English, as you know, is often (very) different from written English. I, and many others, tend to be a bit more "formal' when writing English. (Not so much with texting and emails - but definitely with letters and emails in a professional setting)

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
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Yes, the difference is just 'and' and 'to' - I couldn't work out how to correct the question!

chrishemingwayhow to correct the question

OK. Done.

CJ