Reduced passive relative clauses

Discussion in 'English Only' started by AbleSeaman, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. AbleSeaman New Member

    English, UK
    Hi. Please help me. I am struggling with rules for reducing passive relative clauses.

    Here are 2 sentences, one in past perfect passive, one in past simple passive . (Scenario : I've got lots of plates and I want to describe exactly which one is broken. It's a defining relative clause though as I believe non-defining ones can also be reduced in the passive, I'm not sure if that's important or not).

    I broke my plate which had been engraved.
    I broke my plate which was engraved.

    Reducing these to I broke my plate engraved is clearly wrong. If I add a subject, or a prepositional phrase, it seems a little better :

    I broke my plate engraved by the craftsman.
    I broke my plate engraved at the fete.

    But even with those two, I feel the need to change 'my' to 'the' to make it correct.

    However, other sentences (also using 'the' rather than 'my') seem to reduce perfectly well :

    I preferred the third book that had been written/ that was written.

    I preferred the third book written.

    I realise I've added an adjective describing the book but if I add an adjective to the sentences about the plate they still doesn't reduce.

    I'm very confused. Why can we reduce some passive relative clauses, without a subject or prepositional phrase, but not others? And is the article/ possessive adjective used important?

    Thanks in advance

    AS
     
  2. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Hi AS, and welcome to the forum! :)

    I have to be honest and say I'm struggling a bit with this.

    I don't think any of the "I broke my plate..." sentences sound idiomatic. They work if, as you say, you replace "my" with "the" and I think you could use "I broke the plate of mine ..." to restore the possessive. But you still can't reduce it to just "I broke the plate of mine engraved."

    So, while I suspect the possessive does play a part in all this, I'm afraid I can't answer the question as why the book example appears to work but the plate ones don't. Except to say that grammatical constructions in English hardly ever work consistently with every combination. :(
     
  3. The only difference I can spot in the two examples is that in the first one to be engraved is only one of the many circumstances you can refer to a plate, while to be written is substantial to a book. A book can only be written or not yet written.
    In the same way I could probably say I put at the back of the warehouse the goods sold. To be sold or unsold is substantial to goods; it is the reason why we call them goods.
    On the contrary I wouldn't say I called my friend fired, because being fired is not a natural, ineluctable condition for a person (neither is being hired).
    I understand there is not much ground for this, it is just my attempt...:)
     
  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    How about: I broke the engraved plate.
     
  5. AbleSeaman New Member

    English, UK
    Hi,

    Thanks for your contributions.

    I know a lot of past participles double as an adjective and that coming out of the passive makes the process easier but I am looking for a reason why it doesn't work in the passive. The idea of a relationship between the past participle and the noun is interesting. The reduction seems to work with "....goal scored" and "...song/music played" and even " ....article/ possessive adjective used ". But then again, it's not universally applicable. I can 't think of a reduced passive relative clause that would end with " ....TV watched" or "...food eaten".
     
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    None of the reduced relative clauses work. The passive does convert. The reason is that in a reduced relative clause the adjective/participle refers to the subject of the main clause:
    The man who was engraving the plate died of a heart attack. -> the man engraving the plate died of a heart attack.

    I preferred the third book that had been written/ that was written by the author.

    I preferred the third book written. = I preferred the third book written as opposed to the spoken version
     
  7. AbleSeaman New Member

    English, UK
    Thanks for your help, PaulQ but, please, can you add some clarification? What do you mean by "...the adjective/participle refers to the subject of the main clause"?

    I would have thought that in "
    I broke my plate which had been engraved." 'engraved' is talking about the plate, which is the object of the main clause, 'I' is the subject.
    Also, any ideas about the use of articles/poss adjectives? They generally seem to reduce better with the former but I can't work out or find a reason why.

    Thanks again.
     
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    What do you mean by "...the adjective/participle refers to the subject of the main clause"?

    In the indicative mood, we have two clauses: "The man who was engraving the plate died of a heart attack."

    The main clause is in black, and the relative clause in blue.

    The relative clause qualifies the subject of the main clause.

    We can reduce the relative clause: "The man engraving the plate died of a heart attack." by removing "who was" but "engraving the plate" still qualifies and relates to the subject of the main clause - "The man."

    If the relative clause is in the passive:

    I broke my plate which had been engraved.



    Then this becomes: I broke my engraved plate.

    You will see that "engraved" qualifies the object (plate) and not the subject (man). This means it is not a relative clause (these relate to the subject) but an adjectival clause qualifying the object, and can be reduced to an adjective.

    You have confused the issue by adding an agent: I broke my plate engraved by the craftsman. The object of the sentence, "the plate", is now qualified by "engraved by the craftsman." but this cannot be reduced to a single adjective.
     
  9. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    A relative clause is an adjectival clause and it can describe the object of the sentence: 'Dick Whittington took the road which led to London'.

    In my view, it is simpler not to talk of reduced relative clauses, but of participial phrases, which are also adjectival.
    The relative clause 'which led to London' can be replaced by the equivalent participial phrase 'leading to London'.
     
  10. AbleSeaman New Member

    English, UK
    Thanks again for further input.
    I am working through the different examples and looking at what is being described. I can get "'Dick Whittington took the road LEADING to London' but 'Dick Whittington took the road which HAD BEEN RELAID' doesn't reduce without converting to active.
     
  11. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    You can make 'relaid' an adjective: 'took the relaid road'.
     

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