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Reduced Adverb Clauses

If you are unfamiliar with teaching adverb clauses, please feel free to review the section on Adverb Clauses Lessons before learning how to teach reduced adverb clauses.

Adverb clauses reduce in one of two basic ways depending on whether the clause is active or passive, so let's begin by looking into how to reduce active adverb clauses.

Reducing Active Adverb Clauses:

When reducing active clauses, there are three things to keep in mind:
  • Whatever word occupies the space right after the subordinator has to have the same meaning as the word that begins the independent clause. [In most cases this means the subject of the dependent clause = the subject of the independent clause. However, if the independent clause is passive, then it will = the object.]
  • Active clauses reduce to the ing form. [looks like a gerund]
  • Not all adverb clause subordinators can be reduced. [ List of ones that can be reduced]

Active clauses reduce to the ing form:

   For example:

    when he ate ten burgers at McBurger, Tom got sick.
                        DC                                        IC

Note that in the example above "he" and "Tom" are the same person, so we can go ahead and reduce the adverb clause by deleting the subject and changing the verb into its gerund form. [Because the two subjects are the same person, we don't need them twice in the sentence.]

   For example:

    when eating ten burgers at McBurger, Tom got sick.
                        DC                                        IC

Even though we deleted the past tense when we changed "ate" to "eating", the past tense verb in the independent clause still implies that this action happened in the past, so we haven't altered the meaning.

*Special Note: Because the subordinators "When" or "While" mean two actions that happen at or around the same time, we can reduce the example above one step further by deleting the subordinator...

   For example:

    Eating ten burgers at McBurger, Tom got sick.
                        DC                                        IC

Doing this opens up the possibility for some ambiguity in the meaning though because this reduced form looks exactly like a reduced and fronted S-S or O-S adjective clause. For instance the reduce sentence above could have begun its life as...

    Tom, who ate ten burgers at McBurger, got sick.

This ambiguity tends to disappear when we use these reduced clauses in larger contexts though [like a paragraph in an essay], so it's only a small problem.


page last modified: April 6, 2016

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