A new study has shown that millions of pieces of junk floating in space could be a big hazard for satellites orbiting Earth.

Is there an implicit 'which are' in front of floating in space? Why is 'which are' not written?


2 Answers 2


This is a reduced relative clause. We delete unnecessary elements of sentences to make them shorter and easier to read. The missing words are which are or that are.

  • 2
    And the OP's sentence contains a second example. May 6, 2013 at 17:19
  • @EdwinA: +1 It's so natural that it's not even noticeable!
    – user21497
    May 7, 2013 at 0:20
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth: Yes, and the last few words of the sentence sound much better than, say, "satellites that orbit the Earth." They're also more concise, and the -ing suffixes "match" each other. May 7, 2013 at 1:03
  • Just a rider to anticipate related questions. Past participial clauses are also common as post-modifiers of noun etc groups (Those badly injured had to be left on the battlefield). Apr 15, 2020 at 11:36

This is a participle clause performing as a reduced defining relative clause. The verb floating is a present participle, ing form, and replaces the longer and in this case the more awkward which are or that are. It is a defining relative clause as you are clarifying to the reader which junk you are talking about i.e., the junk floating in space, as opposed to the junk lying in your garden.

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