Author Topic: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases  (Read 37488 times)

Joe Carillo

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Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« on: December 11, 2009, 11:10:14 PM »
Part I

Both adjective phrases and adjective clauses serve to modify nouns and pronouns—meaning that they identify or give additional information about the subject or about the object receiving the action in a sentence. However, while an adjective phrase can simply be any kind of modifying phrase—perhaps a series of adjectives, an adjective modified by an adverb, a complement, a prepositional phrase, or a participle phrase—the adjective clause works as a dependent or subordinate clause in a sentence, and as such must have a subject and an operative verb.

To be able to do its work, the adjective clause (also called the relative clause) needs to link itself to the main clause of a sentence by making use of one of the following: the relative pronouns “that,” which,” “who,” “whom,” and “whose” and the pronouns “when” and “where.” The adjective clause can then function in any of three ways: as modifier of the subject in the main clause, as modifier of the object of the operative verb in the main clause, and as object of the preposition.

Now, consider the following two sentences: “Employees who are working on contractual basis are not entitled to regular company benefits.” “The three applicants didn’t possess the skills that we needed for the position.” The first uses an adjective clause, “who are working on contractual basis," to modify the subject “employees,” and the second, “that we needed for the position,” to modify the object of the operative verb in the main clause, which is “skills.”

We will see that in the case of the first sentence, even if both the relative pronoun “who” and the operative verb “are” are dropped from the adjective clause “who are working on contractual basis,” the sentence will still work perfectly: “Employees working on contractual basis are not entitled to regular company benefits.” The second sentence, too, will actually read and sound better when the relative pronoun “that” is dropped from the adjective clause “that we needed for the position:” “The three applicants didn’t possess the skills we needed for the position.”

What actually happened here was that we were able to reduce the adjective clauses into adjective phrases. Indeed, whenever possible and desirable, an adjective clause that uses the relative pronouns “who,” “which,” and “that” can be reduced into an adjective phrase.

Here, to begin with, are three of the most common ways of effecting such a reduction:

(1) When the operative verb in the adjective clause is in the active form, drop the relative pronoun and convert the operative verb to its progressive form. For example, the adjective clause “who work as full-time professionals” in the sentence “Women who work as full-time professionals are more likely to remain unmarried” can be reduced to the adjective phrase “working as full-time professionals” to make the sentence more concise, as follows: “Women working as full-time professionals are more likely to remain unmarried.”

(2) When the operative verb in the adjective clause is already in the progressive form, simply drop the relative pronoun and the form of the verb “be.” For example, the adjective clause “that are living in the wild” in “Animals that are living in the wild sometimes no longer reproduce when kept in zoos” can be reduced to the adjective phrase “living in the wild” to make the sentence more concise, as follows: “Animals living in the wild sometimes no longer reproduce when kept in zoos.”

(3) When the operative verb in the adjective clause is in the passive form, drop the relative pronoun and the form of the verb “be.” For example, the adjective clause “who are provided proper nutrition” in “Indigent children who are provided with proper nutrition can grow into productive members of society” can be reduced to the adjective phrase “provided with proper nutrition” to make the sentence more concise, as follows: “Indigent children provided with proper nutrition can grow into productive members of society.” (December 27, 2008)

Part II

We saw in the previous essay that generally, adjective clauses that use the relative pronouns “who,” “which,” and “that” can be reduced by dropping the relative pronoun and the form of the verb “be” used in the adjective clause. For example, in the sentence “Many politicians who are elected to public office often treat their positions as family heirlooms,” the adjective clause “who are elected to office” can be reduced to the adjective phrase “elected to public office” to produce this more concise, forthright sentence: “Many politicians elected to public office often treat their positions as family heirlooms.”

Recall that adjective clauses, which are also called relative clauses, can either be restrictive or nonrestrictive. It is restrictive when it provides essential information about the subject of the sentence, as the clause “that has just ended” in “The year that has just ended was notable for its severe economic turbulence.” On the other hand, it is nonrestrictive when it provides information that isn’t essential to the meaning of the sentence (as indicated by the commas setting the clause off from the main clause), as the clause “which was uninhabited a decade ago” in “The island, which was uninhabited a decade ago, is now a world-class resort.”

Now, whether restrictive or nonrestrictive, an adjective clause can often be reduced to an adjective phrase to make the sentence more concise. In the first example given in the preceding paragraph, for instance, the restrictive adjective clause “that has just ended” can be reduced to the adjective phrase “just ended” to yield this sentence: “The year just ended was notable for its severe economic turbulence.” Similarly, in the second example, the nonrestrictive adjective clause “which was uninhabited a decade ago” can be reduced to the adjective phrase “uninhabited a decade ago” to yield this sentence: “The island, uninhabited a decade ago, is now a world-class resort.”

Note that when a nonrestrictive adjective clause modifying the subject of a sentence is reduced to an adjective phrase, as in the example above, the adjective phrase can alternatively be placed in front of the subject of the sentence: “Uninhabited a decade ago, the island is now a world-class resort.” This can’t be done in the case of reduced restrictive adjective clauses. In fact, in the case of the first sentence with the restrictive adjective clause reduced to an adjective phrase, putting “just ended” up front yields this fractured sentence: “Just ended, the year was notable for its severe economic turbulence.”

We must also beware that it isn’t always possible to reduce an adjective clause to an adjective phrase. For example, in the sentence “The rain that fell in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year,” it’s not possible at all to reduce the adjective clause “that fell in torrents this morning.” To simply drop the relative pronoun “that” from the adjective clause produces this fractured sentence “The rain fell in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year;” on the other hand, following the first reduction procedure described in Part I of this essay, to drop “that” and convert “fell” to the progressive-form “falling” to reduce the adjective clause to the adjective phrase “falling in torrents this morning” yields this semantically dubious, time-skewed sentence, “The rain falling in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year.”

For an even better feel of the limits of adjective clause reduction, try doing it for this sentence: “Customers who have missed the show are disappointed.” (Were you able to do it?)

Indeed, we need to play it by ear when faced with the choice of reducing an adjective clause to an adjective phrase. If the reduction makes the sentence sound better without altering its sense, go right ahead. But if the reduction doesn’t sound right or changes the meaning of the sentence, simply leave the adjective clause the way it is, relative pronoun and all. (January 3, 2009)

From the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, December 27, 2008 and January 3, 2009, © 2008 and © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

pedestrian

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2010, 12:04:13 AM »
hi, jose,

Sorry for my poor English, but I did not realize the problem in the content stated by you:

=>>We must also beware that it isn’t always possible to reduce an adjective clause to an adjective phrase. For example, in the sentence “The rain that fell in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year,” it’s not possible at all to reduce the adjective clause “that fell in torrents this morning.” To simply drop the relative pronoun “that” from the adjective clause produces this fractured sentence “The rain fell in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year;” on the other hand, following the first reduction procedure described in Part I of this essay, to drop “that” and convert “fell” to the progressive-form “falling” to reduce the adjective clause to the adjective phrase “falling in torrents this morning” yields this semantically dubious, time-skewed sentence, “The rain falling in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year.”

I did not understand your meaning what is semantically dubious, time-skewed...
Could you pls explain in detail ? Sorry for my stubid question.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2010, 03:14:16 PM »
You need not apologize for your question, pedestrian. It’s not stupid at all but a perfectly valid one.

Now let me try to clarify and explain the matter for you:

With reference to the sentence “The rain falling in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year,” by “semantically dubious” I mean that what the sentence means to say is logically questionable. The intended meaning is clear in the original sentence, “The rain that fell in torrents yesterday was the heaviest this year,” but the ill-advised reduction of the adjective clause “that fell in torrents yesterday” into “falling in torrents yesterday” in the new sentence skewed or distorted the time frame of the action. The adjective clause made it clear that the action of the rain falling happened and ended “yesterday”—meaning that it occurred and was completed in the past—but the adjective phrase construction gives the wrong sense that although the rain happened and ended “yesterday,” it’s still in progress at the moment of speaking. This is the clear but wrong implication of the progressive-form verb phrase “falling in torrents yesterday.”

Another way of looking at this grammatical situation is this: The adjective clause form “the rain that fell in torrents yesterday” describes a past and completed event, while the adjective phrase form “the rain falling in torrents yesterday” is semantically contradictory because it uses the present participle “falling” for a past event that had already ended. Logically, the simple past tense “fell” should be used instead to describe that past action.

Of course, it’s also possible that the writer might have intended to describe the rain as an event that was in progress in the past. In that case, however, the adjective phrase “falling in torrents yesterday” will need an operative verb to prop it up, say the verb “was,” to correctly convey the logic of that situation, and the sentence itself will need some grammatical adjustments for it to work properly. We might then be able to come up with a grammatically and semantically correct sentence like this: ““The rain was falling in torrents yesterday and it was the heaviest so far this year.” This time, however, we have a compound sentence consisting of two co-equal coordinate clauses, “the rain was falling in torrents yesterday” and “it was the heaviest so far this year,” linked by the coordinating conjunction “and.” There’s no subordination of clauses involved in this construction, and there are no relative clauses either, so the matter of reduction of an adjective clause to an adjective phrase is not at all an option here.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2010, 07:34:05 AM by Joe Carillo »

GeorgeNH

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2011, 01:48:18 AM »
I never thought about the subject so deep. Nevertheless the structural linguistic is powerful tool for investigating language. Thanks for the post.
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Apollosan

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2011, 06:36:51 PM »
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LarryHeart

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2011, 07:01:44 PM »
I coldn't even imagine that such details are also importnat and play even 1% role in English.
Since this time I will pay attention to the adjective abuse effect ans visit this forum with all of my grammar questions.
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tenantcheck

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2011, 02:10:41 AM »
I can tell you definitely have a good command of the English language with your excellent analysis.

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andersony

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2011, 02:40:49 PM »
Nice forum in here its a big help for me...

carlz03

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2011, 11:21:46 PM »
"Both adjective phrases and adjective clauses serve to modify nouns and pronouns—meaning that they identify or give additional information about the subject or about the object receiving the action in a sentence. However, while an adjective phrase can simply be any kind of modifying phrase—perhaps a series of adjectives, an adjective modified by an adverb, a complement, a prepositional phrase, or a participle phrase—the adjective clause works as a dependent or subordinate clause in a sentence, and as such must have a subject and an operative verb." -- very well said. I appreciate you for the discussion.

kimcarter14

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2011, 10:28:23 AM »
This is our lesson in our high school days. It refreshed our knowledge on adjectives, nouns and etc. Good thing of discussing it here.

waltzamora

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2012, 03:00:14 PM »
It does a big help in enhancing our grammar knowledge.

brookwilliams

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Re: Reducing adjective clauses to adjective phrases
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2012, 03:39:16 PM »
That's not the root of the problem, it's the self discipline of the students why they're not fluent in english.


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