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Odd sentence?

Anything odd about this sentence?

“All of a sudden, there was a bottle breaking on the table.”

  • September 6, 2005
  • Posted by m56
  • Filed in Grammar

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Thanks, Janet. I find the sentence odd, but we can use "all of a sudden" with the progressive form.

All of a sudden, he was swimming for his life.

All of a sudden, she was hitting me with a big stick.

I'm wondering why it doesn't work in the case of a bottle.

m56 September 6, 2005 @ 9:44PM

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I think the sentence would be odd without the phrase "all of a sudden". To me the oddness comes from two things:
(1) Grammatical style: the expletive construction "there was" makes the sentence unnecessarily wordy. The subject of the sentence follows the verb, and there is no reason to shift emphasis away from the subject.
(2) semantic: bottles don't break themselves. In M56's other examples the subject is doing the action expressed by the verb. I think the following is OK. What do you think?
"all of a sudden, a bottle was being broken (by Bob) on the table."
"All of a sudden. Bob was breaking a bottle on the table."

trlists September 7, 2005 @ 10:04PM

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i think it's very odd, i'd just say "all of a sudden, a bottle broke on the table"

thesplenderinice September 18, 2005 @ 12:53AM

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Wait a minute, now. While it is certainly likely the the true intent was to use "broke", it is not ungrammatical with "breaking". Consider this scenario: The bottle was sitting on a table for years and years, unmolested. Then, all of a sudden, without any explanation, a crack developed on the mouth of the bottle. The crack grew and grew over the course of many hours, even spawning new cracks. Eventually, the bottle was so badly damaged that it flew apart into a million pieces, each piece developing its own cracks. Couldn't this situation be accurately described by the sample sentence?

porsche October 26, 2005 @ 5:31PM

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