A present participle clause or reduced relative clause?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by captainx, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. captainx Member

    cantonese, Hong Kong
    For the following sentence "Despite awareness of the dangers, this notoriously pro-business city has moved at a glacial pace in tackling the problem, commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action" , is the last phrase "commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action" a reduced relative clause or present participle clause?

    How will you expand this sentence?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    I can't see how to expand it to a relative clause. It is the city which is commissioning studies, but the clause is in the wrong place (too far away) to be equivalent to:

    this notoriously pro-business city, which is commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action, has moved at a glacial pace in tackling the problem

    In the position it's actually in, the clause is equivalent to something like 'and has been commissioning . . .', though I wouldn't actually expand it to that. There is no need to expand it.
     
  3. captainx Member

    cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you for your answer. However, i don't pretty understand the underlying rule of present participle clause. I have previously asked a similar question regarding this clause in this post and i was told that in that specific sentence, the present participle clause implied cause and effect relationship not "and" relationship. As i see, these 2 sentences(sentence in this post and sentence in my post on 28/2) have a very similar sentence structures. How come the same sentence structure will imply 2 different meaning? How can i grasp this concept as a non-native English speaker?
     
  4. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    Well, that's why I was vague about it, saying 'something like' and then saying I wouldn't actually expand it to that. I just meant it was more like that sort of connexion than like a relative clause. It would be closer to say that 'commissioning' is equivalent to 'having commissioned', but that just moves the ing-ending onto another verb, and doesn't explain it. That is then something like 'as/since it has commissioned'.
     
  5. captainx Member

    cantonese, Hong Kong
    I am puzzled and not sure whether i have completed understood your point.

    If the present participle implied a cause and effect relationship, i should be able to reconstruct/expand the sentence into "Despite awareness of the dangers, this notoriously pro-business city has moved at a glacial pace in tackling the problem because this city has been commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action"

    This reconstructed/expanded sentence, however, look very unnatural and awkward. Is it because the original sentence was poorly written?
     
  6. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    I see it as an -ing phrase (because there's no finite verb marking tense) not derived from a relative clause (because the phrase modifies all that precedes it, not a noun). More to the point, it's a reduced prepositional phrase, which can be expanded by adding a preposition and the subject of the -ing word: Despite awareness of the dangers, this notoriously pro-business city has moved at a glacial pace in tackling the problem, with the City commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action. In reduced form, the -ing becomes the head of a phrase that functions adverbially (because it modifies the preceding sentence).
     
  7. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I would always advise strongly against using this kind of padded out expression.

    The original text is shorter, cleaner and clearer in meaning. It is not a reduced form of anything. It is a standard participial phrase, where the participle 'commissioning' performs the characteristic dual role of (1) acting as an adjective describing the noun 'city' and (2) expressing the verbal meaning which applies to its object 'study after study'.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  8. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    Nobody is arguing that the original text must be expanded (there's no reason to do so), but expanding it reveals the nature of the phrase, which is what the original question is about. If you can't expand the phrase to a relative clause, then that reveals that calling the phrase "adjective" has its problems (though semantically there's an obvious connection between "city" and "commissioning:" it is the city that commissions studies). By contrast, the sentence can be expanded to what is really a garden-variety prepositional phrase functioning adverbially. What to call "commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action" is an interesting exercise (with various points of view, of course) but ultimately irrelevant (unless you are doing homework or preparing for an exam, in which case I'd say go with the terminology/criteria used by your course/teacher); what matters, in terms of syntax, is that the phrase properly fits in the given sentence structure, and it does.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
  9. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The original question is:
    In my view, the answer is straightforward.
    It is a participial phrase, with its normal double function, being both adjectival and verbal, and it should not be expanded at all.
     
  10. Edinburgher Senior Member

    Scotland
    German/English bilingual
    Indeed the participial phrase can be viewed as functioning either adverbially, modifying "has moved", or adjectivally, modifying "this...city".
    We would not normally expand it, but if you wanted to do so purely for comprehension purposes, you could make the underlined insertion below:
    Despite awareness of the dangers, this notoriously pro-business city has moved at a glacial pace in tackling the problem, as can be seen by the fact that it has been commissioning study after study but taking little concrete action.
     
  11. captainx Member

    cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you all! I get the point now.

    Btw, This is not my homework assignment. I simply want to do so purely for comprehension purposes.
     
  12. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    It is at the same time (1) adjectival. because it qualifies the noun 'city' and thus describes it and (2) verbal, because it expresses the action of 'commissioning' which, like any transitive verb, takes an object ('study after study').

    Semantically, the participial phrase is explaining the words 'at a glacial pace'. Does this make it an adverbial phrase? That seems questionable to me, but if it is so, that is not a universal characteristic of participial phrases, whereas the two functions, adjectival and verbal, are universal properties of participial phrases.
     

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