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Author Topic: How to reduce adverb clauses to adverb phrases  (Read 296 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: January 19, 2017, 08:25:44 PM »

A new member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum who goes by the username Na30r made this quintessentially polite request: “If you don’t mind please explain the ‘reducing of adverb clauses.’” When someone makes a request in such nuanced English, I feel obliged to answer no matter how tough and demanding the question might be, so here goes my answer to NA30r’s question:

The reduction of an adverb clause is a way of streamlining a sentence by knocking off the formal subject of the adverb clause to make it an adverb phrase instead. To make the sense of this statement, however, we need to first clearly distinguish between an adjective clause and an adjective phrase, on one hand, and an adverb clause and adverb phrase, on the other.


Recall that adjective clauses are those extended modifiers that give us more details about nouns. They are usually introduced by the relative pronouns “that,” “which,” “who,” “whom,” “whose,” or “where,” which then links the details to the main clause. For instance, in “The case that is being heard in the trial court is for child custody,” the adjective clause is “that is being heard in the trial court.” This kind of adjective clause using the relative pronoun “be” can be reduced by dropping “that is” to yield this adjective phrase: “being heard in the trial court.” The sentence then takes this simpler and more concise form: “The case being heard in the trial court is for child custody.”

In contrast to adjective clauses, adverb clauses are those extended modifiers of verbs and verb phrases that give us the details and circumstances of the action done by them, particularly in terms of time and duration. Adverb clauses come complete with a subject and a verb, as “while we were dancing” in this sentence: “While we were dancing, we talked about old times.” Adverb phrases, on the other hand, only have either a subject or a verb, as in this sentence: “While dancing, we talked about old times.” In contrast to the adverb clause “while we were dancing,” the adverb phrase “while dancing” states the same action but does away with the doer of the action. The basic way to reduce an adverb clause is therefore to knock off its formal subject, thus making it an adverb phrase with essentially the same meaning.

Now let’s take up the three possible ways of reducing an adverb clause into an adverb phrase:

(1) Reduction of adverb clauses in sentences involving same-time actions. When an adverb clause is introduced by “while” or “when,” it can be reduced by dropping both the subject and the form of “be” that goes with it. We already took up earlier how this is done for an adverb clause introduced by “while.” For adverb clauses introduced by “when,” as in “When he is in the Philippines, he always visits Boracay,” both the subject “he” and the verb “is” can be dropped to reduce the sentence to “When in the Philippines, he always visits Boracay.”
 
(2) Reduction of “when” and “while” adverb clauses that use an active verb instead of “be.” This can be done by changing the active verb in the adverb clause to its “-ing” form. For instance, “While I was flying that plane, I saw sparks on the left wing” can be reduced to “While flying that plane, I saw sparks on the left wing.” Sometimes, “while” or “when” can be dropped as well:“Flying that plane, I saw sparks on the left wing.”

(3) Reduction of adverb clauses introduced by “before” or “after.” This can be done by similarly changing the active verb in the adverb clause to its “-ing” form.  For instance, “Before she hired the cook, she made him cook her favorite dish” reduces to “Before hiring the cook, she made him cook her favorite dish.” (May 12, 2012)

This essay, 790th in the series, appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times in its May 12, 2012 issue, © 2012 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.

RELATED READINGS IN THE FORUM:
Distinguishing noun clauses from adjective clauses and adverb clauses
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