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When connecting two progressive actions, are you supposed to connect them using progressive in both or only the last one, as tense should be determined by the last verb?

Example: He was sitting in the classroom, reading a book.

彼は教室にすわって本を読んでいた。

or

彼は教室にすわっていて本を読んでいた。

Thanks in advance

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Both of these would not express progressive actions. When you connect verbs with て-form, it would mean you finished the first action, then did the second action. 座っていて would be ungrammatical because you imply a progressive action is already done. Instead, for progressive actions, you would add ながら to the end of the ます-stem of a verb.

彼は歩きながら携帯をいじっていました。
He was messing with his phone while walking.

For your example, however, this gets a bit more complicated. Sitting in Japanese is an instantaneous action, not a state. While you can say you were "sitting while talking" in English, 座る means the action of sitting down and is instantaneous. You cannot "read a book while performing the action of sitting down". Instead, you would "sit down, and then read a book".

So, instead of:
彼は座りながら本を読んでいた。X This is incorrect

you would say:
彼は座って本を読んでいた。
He sat down and read a book.

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  • how about 座ったままで本を読んだ?
    – A.Ellett
    Sep 11 '20 at 0:19
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    I think V1 + て + V2 can mean "V2 while V1", not only "V1 and then V2". How do you explain 泳いで川を渡る, 歩いて学校に行く, 包丁を使って野菜を切る and so on?
    – naruto
    Sep 11 '20 at 2:02
  • @naruto Huh, I'm not too sure. But I think that's a bit different? In 泳いで川を渡る and the other examples, rather than being two actions being done at the same time, isn't it describing how the action is being done? I don't think it's "I swam while I crossed the river", but rather "I crossed the river by swimming"
    – Shurim
    Sep 11 '20 at 16:30

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