Reducing Non-Defining Relative Clauses

Hi all,
I've just taken a glance at some grammar books.
The topic is Non-Defining Relative Clauses.

In one book it is written that in non-defining relative clauses, you can't omit relative pronoun. However, in other book, I see that it is very common using reduced relative clauses

For example,

The invitation,which was sent by George, should please Mary.
becomes
The invitation,sent by George, should please Mary.

So what is the point of all?
I'm really confused by all.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi donreno

    You can't omit the relative pronoun only, but you can omit the relative pronoun plus the verb 'to be'.

    The invitation, which was sent by George, should please Mary:tick:
    The invitation, was sent by George, should please Mary:cross:
    The invitation, sent by George, should please Mary:tick:
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    A question for those who know more about grammar than I do, which is probably most foreros:

    Is sent by George really a non-defining relative clause? It looks like an adjectival phrase to me.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think, cuchu, that it's just that some authorities find it helpful to explain post-positioning of adjectives/adjectival phrases in terms of "reduced relative clauses".

    In other words, they would say that the difference between
    (a) the disheartened boy ran away
    and
    (b) the boy, disheartened, ran away
    is that in (a) the normal word order is followed - adjective before noun, whereas in (b) "disheartened" is a 'reduced' version of "who was disheartened".

    And they would say that adjectival phrases - unless you can hyphenate the components to form a single adjective - are always "reduced relative clauses":
    (a1) the disheartened by his experiences boy ran away:cross:
    (b1) the boy, disheartened by his experiences, ran away:tick:
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Thanks Loob. I think I get it. An adjectival phrase is a non-defining relative clause with the excess calories and carbohydrates removed, sort of a svelter, more wiry form.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks Loob. I think I get it. An adjectival phrase is a non-defining relative clause with the excess calories and carbohydrates removed, sort of a svelter, more wiry form.
    I expect you've read a lot of horse-manure on this topic, Cuchu, but here (for anyone who feels like it) is what I've always found helpful.

    Using Loob's example:

    The disheartened boy ran away.
    The boy who was disheartened ran away. - no comma after boy: the who was disheartened defines the boy (defining relative); it tells us which boy ran away.

    The boy ran away disheartened.
    The boy, who was disheartened, ran away. - comma after boy and disheartened: the who was disheartened doesn't define (non-defining relative) the boy; it does not tell us which boy ran away, just that the one who ran away happened to be disheartened.
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    donreno, there is a difference between subject relatives as in your original example (where the relative pronoun by itself cannot be omitted, whether the relative clause is defining or non-defining) and non-subject relatives, where the rule you mentioned does apply.

    • The relative pronoun cannot be omitted in a non-defining non-subject relative clause:
      The invitation, which I specifically adressed to Mary, was intercepted by her sister.
    • The relative pronoun can be omitted in a defining non-subject relative clause:
      Sorry, the invitation that you have in your hand is actually addressed to your sister Mary.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    donreno, there is a difference between subject relatives as in your original example (where the relative pronoun by itself cannot be omitted, whether the relative clause is defining or non-defining) and non-subject relatives, where the rule you mentioned does apply.

    • The relative pronoun cannot be omitted in a non-defining non-subject relative clause:
      The invitation, which I specifically adressed to Mary, was intercepted by her sister.
    • The relative pronoun can be omitted in a defining non-subject relative clause:
      Sorry, the invitation that you have in your hand is actually addressed to your sister Mary.
    This would mean that the reduction removes the possibility of the clause being defining, when the relative pronoun isn't the subject.

    The invitation I specifically adressed to Mary was for Tuesday can't mean The invitation for Tuesday was specifically adressed to Mary: it must mean The invitation which I specifically adressed to Mary, was for Tuesday.

    I think that accords with how I would understand the words. One can't help feeling that learners ought to be chary of reducing relatives until they are very confident in what they are doing.
     

    AudreyH

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hi!

    Just to be sure I have understood correctly, can I make another example?

    "The law, which was inspired by the work of a team of lawyers, ordained the dismantling of the plant".

    but it is also possible:

    "The law, inspired by the work of a team of lawyers, ordained the dismantling of the plant".

    Is that correct or in formal written English is it better to use the first solution?
     

    capitanoachab

    New Member
    italian
    How about this?

    I talk to the man, who is smoking a cigar.

    reduced version is:

    I talk to the man, smoking a cigar.

    But in this case "smoking a cigar" sounds like an ING clause and the meaning changes in to:

    Smoking a cigar, I talk to the man.

    So I ask again: may I really reduce a non-defining relative clause?

    <-----Threads have been merged at this point by moderator (lkorentia52)----->
     
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    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Hi,

    I'm talking to the man smoking a cigar = I'm talking to the man who is smoking a cigar.
    I'm talking to the man, smoking a cigar = I'm talking to the man while smoking a cigar.
     

    capitanoachab

    New Member
    italian
    thank you for your answer.
    I understand what you say in the case of a defining relative clause.

    So if I say:
    I am talking to the man who is smoking a cigar (no comma after the relative pronoun, so the relative clause is a defining relative clause)

    and I reduce the relative clause, the sentence changes in to:

    I'm talking to the man smoking a cigar. (as you said)

    But what happens if the relative clause is non-defining? (with the comma after the relative pronoun?)
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Oh, sorry about that. I had no idea what a non-defining clause was, so I had to look it up. Shortening "who was smoking" into "smoking" would be clearly ambiguous -- if nothing else -- in that context.

    If I read "Jim was talking to the man, smoking a cigar, looking relaxed", I would assume you're talking about Jim, not the man. In other words, I would take it to be short for "Jim was talking to the man and was smoking a cigar / while smoking a cigar".
     
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    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Hello. The sentence below is from a book of Gossip Girl series.

    "Vanessa turned back to Clark without a word. She couldn’t wait to kiss him again, and forget all about Serena and Dan, heading off into the night together."

    According to the context, the underlined part modifies Serena and Dan rather than Vanessa. Is that correct? That is, I take it as follows:

    "Vanessa turned back to Clark without a word. She couldn’t wait to kiss him again, and forget all about Serena and Dan, who were heading off into the night together."

    That it modifies Vanessa would be meaningless to me.
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Thank you for your interests.

    I see such uses of reducted relative clauses, and it becomes easy to confuse it with a present participle modifying the subject, as in Oddmania's post. Other than that, I came across that example in a book of Gossip Girl, which made me doubtful. If I made it up myself, I would use my own suggestion, but it seems to me that it's a common use. Right?
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    While I agree with e2efour, there could be a difference between the meaning of
    "...forget all about Serena and Dan heading off into the night together" and
    "...forget all about Serena and Dan, who were heading off into the night together."
    The former could also mean, and -- in absence of the comma -- is more likely to mean, "forget about Serena and Dan's heading off into the night together" -- you know, the objective case (here both the objective case and the nominative case are the same because the words are proper nouns) can also be used before a gerund. In other words, the "heading" can be taken as a gerund (in which case "heading of into the night together" would not be additional but essential information) or a present participle. On the other hand, ",who were heading off into the night together" is additional information in the latter.
    I hope my post makes sense.
    Thanks.
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Thanks for the reply. I would take it the same as you if there were not comma at all :)

    Though, the comma makes me think. I hope that use is very common when it comes to reducted non-defining clauses. Back to Oddmania's post, there is an ambiguity. It's not certain who is smoking—Jim, or the man he is talking to? That said, I guess it's very common—maybe only in AmE?
     

    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Hi donreno

    You can't omit the relative pronoun only, but you can omit the relative pronoun plus the verb 'to be'.

    The invitation, which was sent by George, should please Mary:tick:
    The invitation, was sent by George, should please Mary:cross:
    The invitation, sent by George, should please Mary:tick:
    Hi, which means that I can reduce any kind of a non-restrictive relative clause, for I've come across a thread explaining how to reduce non-identifying adjective clauses, but I've been confused since I read it...
    here's the thread
    Grammar and Beyond #7 – Reducing non-identifying adjective clauses
     

    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    There's another question I'd like to know its answer, please, which is...
    if a non-identifying/restrictive adjective/relative clause, or if an adjective clause, in general, comes in a present perfect, how can I reduce it?
    I.e., if the non-identifying/restrictive adjective/relative clause above were written this way...
    "The invitation, which has been sent by George, should please Mary",
    which of the following two reduced non-identifying/restrictive adjective/relative clause would be grammatically correct?
    "The invitation, having been sent by George, should please Mary".
    "The invitation having been sent by George should please Mary".

    or
    "The invitation, sent by George, should please Mary".
    "The invitation sent by George should please Mary".

    Thank you!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The answer is "Commas":

    "The invitation, sent by George, should please Mary".
    - non-defining
    "The invitation sent by George should please Mary". - defining
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There’s no obvious reason to use the present perfect in that sentence in the first place. It would be better as: The invitation, which was sent by George, should please Mary (non-restrictive), or The invitation that was sent by George should please Mary (restrictive). And the simplest reduced version would be: The invitation George sent should please Mary.
     

    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    The answer is "Commas":

    "The invitation, sent by George, should please Mary".
    - non-defining
    "The invitation sent by George should please Mary". - defining
    Thanks for your quick answer!
    Which means that if I come across an adjective clause with a present perfect, I can turn it to an adjective phrase by using past participle.
    I.e., the following adjective clause was reduced correctly from...
    "A person who has been tricked once is careful the next time."
    to
    "A person tricked once is careful the next time."
    But it'd be grammatically incorrect if it was reduced this way...
    "A person having been tricked once is careful the next time".
    Right?
     
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    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    There’s no obvious reason to use the present perfect in that sentence in the first place. It would be better as: The invitation, which was sent by George, should please Mary (non-restrictive), or The invitation that was sent by George should please Mary (restrictive). And the simplest reduced version would be: The invitation George sent should please Mary.
    Thanks for your answer.
    So in general, if I come across an adjective clause with a present perfect such as the following one...
    "A person who has been tricked once is careful the next time,"
    would you kindly tell me how I can turn it into an adjective phrase?
    Thank you!
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Yes:
    "{A person who has been tricked once} is careful the next time."
    ..{.............noun clause as Subject....}
    "(A person having been tricked once} is careful the next time".
    "{............noun clause as Subject....} -> for information, this construction is "literary" and old-fashioned. The general impression of that sentence is of someone trying to create a saying/proverb that sounds as if it originated about 300 years ago.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Not all sentences can successfully be expressed in a different way simply because other constructions exist. This one can be reduced but actually works better if it isn’t.

    A person who has been tricked once is careful the next time
    A person tricked once (= a tricked-once person) is careful the next time
    Once tricked, a person is careful the next time​
     

    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Yes:
    "{A person who has been tricked once} is careful the next time."
    ..{.............noun clause as Subject....}
    "(A person having been tricked once} is careful the next time".
    "{............noun clause as Subject....} -> for information, this construction is "literary" and old-fashioned. The general impression of that sentence is of someone trying to create a saying/proverb that sounds as if it originated about 300 years ago.
    Thank you very much!

    Not all sentences can successfully be expressed in a different way simply because other constructions exist. This one can be reduced but actually works better if it isn’t.

    A person who has been tricked once is careful the next time
    A person tricked once (= a tricked-once person) is careful the next time
    Once tricked, a person is careful the next time​
    Thank you very much!

    Hi everybody!
    I've just made/created a version containing three adjective clauses, which I've tuned into adjective phrases by using present participle; and I don't know whether I've reduced them correctly or not? Please help!
    Here it is (the full version without reduction):
    Maybe the ones who harmed us instilled inside us an insistence on life; and maybe the ones who caused us to weep, were the ones who made our lives meaningful.
    Here the reduced one:
    Maybe the ones harming us instilled inside us an insistence on life; and maybe the ones causing us to weep, were the ones making our lives meaningful.
    P.S. I don't know the comma, which's placed after the verb/word "weep," is necessary—to avoid confusion—or not?
    Thank you!
     
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    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Hi, everyone!
    I hope everything's alright.
    Is it grammatically correct to say
    "Last night Ahmed asked his father, living in the US currently, to call me"
    instead of
    "Last night Ahmed asked his father, who is living in the US currently, to call me"?
    Thank you very much!
     

    grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hello Ahmed

    No, it doesn't sound right to me. I'd also consider changing the position of currently in the sentence.

    PS. You could have asked this in a new thread.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    That doesn't work. It is a non-defining clause because nobody has two fathers. So nothing should be 'reduced'.
    - He asked his father, who lives in the USA, to call me.
     

    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    No, that's not a good proposal:
    "Last night Ahmed asked his father, living in the US currently, to call me":confused:
    Hi, my great teacher bennymix! I hope you're doing well.
    Well, there's something, which relates to the reduced non-defining relative clauses, confusing me.

    1st, I'd like to tell you that I'm fully convinced that the following sentence/clause, written by me, (Last night he asked his father, living in the U.S., to call me.) does NOT make sense, and is an ungrammatical one, and it should be written this way...
    'Last night he asked his father, who lives in the U.S., to call me.'

    But what confuses me is that I sometimes come across/read some non-defining relative clauses written/penned by well-known native English speaking writers and politicians who've reduced them (the non-defining relative clauses) by omitting the relative pronouns, and replacing the verb to-be with the present participle ("-ing" form).

    <-----Additional comment removed by moderator (Florentia52)----->

    Let's take a look at the following clause:

    "The United States, stretching over 16,000 kilometres of coastline, is a large country."
    I think that the full version without reduction/contraction would be:
    "The United States, which stretches over 16,000 kilometres of coastline, is a large country."

    Well, let's, too, take a look at the following quote:
    "Life is a loom, weaving illusion." — Vachel Lindsay
    I think that the full version without reduction/contraction would be:
    "Life is a loom, which weaves illusion."

    What I cannot understand is, why doesn't the following clause (Last night he asked his father, living in the U.S., to call me.) make sense?
    And why is it deemed as an ungrammatical clause?

    Well, I always come across some clauses, on Twitter, like the ones above written by well-known native English speaking writers and politicians.

    Well, I just try to write English sentences that are grammatically correct, and that aren't seem/sound wordy, so I usually omit the relative pronouns, and replace the verb to-be with the present participle ("-ing" form). And I'm well aware that not every clause should or can be reduced.

    Well, let's take look at the following sentence or clause (an independent clause):
    He loves a beautiful woman, who lives in the U.S.
    The "He loves a beautiful woman" is an independent clause, which means that it can stand alone as a sentence, which also means that it'd be wrong if I linked it with the dependent clause (who lives in the U.S.) by omitting the comma and the relative pronoun "who"—like this "He loves a beautiful woman living in the U.S.; so, the comma should be placed right after the word "woman."

    Again what I can't understand is that...
    I sometimes read clauses like the one I've just written...
    Like the following ones...
    1. He loves a beautiful woman, who lives in the U.S. (Full.)
    He loves a beautiful woman, living in the U.S. (Reduced.)

    2. "Life is a loom, weaving illusion." — Vachel Lindsay (Reduced.)
    "Life is a loom, which weaves illusion." (Full.)

    3. "The United States, stretching over 16,000 kilometres of coastline, is a large country." (Reduced.)
    The United States, which stretches over 16,000 kilometres of coastline, is a large country. (Full.)

    4. Last night he asked his father, who lives in the U.S., to call me. (Full.)
    Last night he asked his father, living in the U.S., to call me. (Reduced.)

    Thank you very much.
     
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