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Here is my original sentence that I was told needs correction.

For instance, the provided metadata and types are sufficient for the automatic construction of the application user interface.

The intent is to say that the "metadata and types", which are provided by someone, are sufficient to achieve a certain goal, automatic construction of the application user interface.

A native-English-speaking person (my native language is Ukrainian) who helped me proofread my article suggested changing this sentence to

For instance, the metadata and types that are provided are sufficient for the automatic construction of the application user interface.

and explained as follows.

"Provided" in this instance seems to mean "on the condition that", especially when the word "provided" precedes the object. "For instance, provided metadata and type are sufficient for the automatic construction of the user interface, then ... something can happen", but the ending of the sentence is missing, so the reader must start again and mentally rearrange the words. This is a fairly consistent (but incorrect) approach to this type of syntactic expression, and possibly results from an equivalent syntactic construct in Ukrainian. Yes, the suggestions tend to be slightly more verbose, but upon re-reading they are more clear and less ambiguous than the originals.

A resource at diclib.com suggests that such meaning of the word provide is only the fourth possible meaning. Constructs like attached documents instead of documents that are attached, or implemented program instead of programs that are implemented are common in English.

Is provide (as in provided program, provided document) really so different from attach and implement? Is the suggestion to always say object that is provided instead of provided object correct?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

the before provided takes care of all issues here.

There is no ambiguity as your proof-reader suggests, even though his argument is correct in a sense.

Consider the difference:

the provided metadata and types are sufficient


provided metadata and types are sufficient, (you can do it.)

in the second instance, the absence of the will make provided to modify the following phrase into a condition --> 'IF metadata and types are sufficient, you can do it.'

Furthermore, there is no clause in the sentence similar to ('you can do it.'), therefore the reader can never misconstrue it as a conditionality.

This is merely a clarification over what @Barrie England has correctly stated in his answer.

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Thanks everyone for their help. I'm accepting this answers as it was the first that provided a complete clarification of the situation from my standpoint. –  01es Feb 20 '12 at 7:10
Nice to know ELU could be of help to you. –  Kris Feb 20 '12 at 7:15

Your colleague is right, but for the wrong reason. In your sentence, provided is not, as its position might suggest, an adjective, but the past participle of the verb provide and it is used in a passive sense. That is clear when your rewrite the sentence as ‘. . . the metadata and types that are provided [by someone or something unnamed] are sufficient . . .’ That can be abbreviated, if you wish, to ‘. . . the metadata and types provided are sufficient . . .’

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Thank you, but how about "provided" as modifying a noun with passive sense such as "the attached files" as opposed to "the files that have been attached" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participle#Modern_English)? –  01es Feb 17 '12 at 8:34
Could you pleas also provide some rational as to why "provided is not, as its position might suggest, an adjective"? Just would like to understand it better... –  01es Feb 17 '12 at 8:51
+1 I may want to add some blah blah as well in support of this. So, my post below is not really an answer, but a clarification. –  Kris Feb 17 '12 at 9:11
These are two good points, which boil down to why we can speak of ‘the attached files’, but not, at least not so comfortably, of ‘the provided files’. I’d be interested to hear the views of others, but it seems to me that the words have different kinds of meaning. ‘Attached’ is impersonal. The files have been attached by someone in the past, but by the time the phrase ‘attached files’ is read the process of attaching has become remote. ‘Delivered’ implies greater proximity to the action and thus needs to be seen more as a past participle expressing a passive meaning than as an adjective. –  Barrie England Feb 17 '12 at 9:24
Well, I think the relevant to this question information can be found in section "Special forms: '-ed' adjectives" of the "Collin Cobuild English Grammar" book, which starts at the end of page 85 (scribd.com/api_user_11797_David%20Lin/d/…) –  01es Feb 17 '12 at 9:30

I don't think either version is better than the other and I see absolutely no reason to "correct" the first into the second.

It is a quite normal English construct to precede a noun with the past tense of a verb to indicate instances of that noun on which the verb has been performed. For example:

The pitted prunes are then sent to the cannery. (Prunes that have been pitted.)

I don't want chewed gum, I want fresh gum. (Gum that has been chewed)

I make art from crushed cans. (Cans that have been crushed)

Following this same pattern, it is perfectly fine to say "provided metadata and types" to mean "metadata and types that have been provided".

Your colleague would be correct, however if you said this:

Provided metadata and types are sufficient for the automatic construction of the application user interface.

This is a garden path sentence. But there's no way to misunderstand your sentence. I don't understand why your colleague would have that concern when that's just not possible with your sentence because of the word "the".

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