"IT projects gone awry because they were conceived on too massive a scale, and good money thrown after bad, are financial nuisances far from unique to the Beeb." ['Beeb' = BBC]

I've been trying to unpick this sentence and it seems to present some interesting questions regarding reduced relative clauses. I believe that I am right in thinking that it contains two reduced relative clauses, 'gone awry...' and 'thrown after...', which are reductions of 'which have gone awry' and 'which has been thrown after'.

Despite a fair amount of research, I haven't been able to find a comprehensive account of the rules governing the use of reduced relative clauses, with many books simply suggesting that one should use the present participle for active clauses, and the past participle for clauses that have a passive meaning.

Whilst 'thrown after' follows this rule, I am not sure how to classify 'gone awry'. The past participle is used and yet technically-speaking this is not a passive clause. Indeed, it is not possible to use the verb 'go' in a passive sense because it is intransitive. So my questions are: firstly, can we say that where the verb is intransitive a past participle can substitute for an (active) perfect tense? Secondly, can anyone think of other examples of this? And thirdly, where can I find a comprehensive account of the rules governing relative clause reductions as everything I have seen so far has been massively unsatisfactory?

...And if you are not fed up with my silly questions: is 'financial nuisances far from unique to the Beeb' also a reduced relative clause?

Apologies if any of these questions seem naive...

  • This is just a comment. As far as 'good money thrown after bad' goes, wouldn't the reading be: >[IT projects (that have) gone awry because they were conceived on too massive a scale], and [good money (being) thrown after bad], are financial nuisances (that are) far from unique to the Beeb. or alternatively: >IT projects (that have) gone awry because [they were conceived on too massive a scale], and [good money (was) thrown after bad], are financial nuisances (that are) far from unique to the Beeb. ?
    – Neil W
    Jun 30, 2014 at 23:01
  • The first of these is the correct reading; but it doesn't seem to me that the asker is having any difficulty deciphering how to read or understand the sentences, only analysing them grammatically. Jun 30, 2014 at 23:06
  • I didn't seem to me that the suggested "good money which has been thrown after bad" was a correct interpolation. Which relates to the point of identifying and expanding the reduced relative clauses.
    – Neil W
    Jun 30, 2014 at 23:14
  • Ah, yes, I see the difference now. Being would be the required form of the auxiliary, since the phrase is a subject; but the fact that it is reduced remains the same. Jun 30, 2014 at 23:19
  • Is 'good money which has been thrown after bad' really incorrect? I don't see why? I was trying to trace the 'original' relative clause before reduction. '...being thrown' is still a reduction and for me, although clunky, 'which has been thrown' comes closest to what I think is the intended tense/aspect (and it matches 'which have gone awry').
    – thecrease
    Jul 1, 2014 at 21:10

1 Answer 1


My guess would be that it is a slight inaccuracy to say that this type of clause reduction can only be done with passives—rather, it can only be done with verbal forms that use be as their auxiliary. Basically the reduction is about removing the subject and verb in a copular clause, leaving the subject complement behind, whether that be a pure adjective or a participle, past or present.

Such forms will nearly always be passives, but there are a couple of cases where an active uses be instead of have in the perfect—or rather, there used to be such cases. Go is one of these verbs: it used to be he is gone to the store, rather than he has gone to the store, for instance. It seems that when this conjugational pattern of go changed, it didn't affect its ability to form reduced clauses, even though it no longer really fits the criterion.

Another example that arguably still fits the criterion is do, in the specific pseudo-passive (but semantically more active) be-perfect be done meaning ‘have finished’:

The boy still writing his exam paper looked stressed; the boy done with his looked calm.

This is somewhat awkward and clunky as a reduced clause, but to me at least perfectly grammatical.

You cannot, however, extend this to constructions that only permit (or used to permit) have perfects, transitive or intransitive. Thus, the following is quite ungrammatical:

*The boy slept soundly woke up.
*The boy been soundly asleep woke up.

As for your last question: yes, that too is a reduced clause. Here, the subject complement retained just happens to be a pure adjective (modified by an adverbial intensifier far from).

  • mmmm ... I am far from convinced that far from unique can be distinguished from far from London. I am also very far away from being convinced that the others are reduced relative clauses and not participal adjectives postposed, like other adjectives, because they have left complements. Jun 30, 2014 at 23:05
  • 1
    Gone can simply be a predicate adjective, meaning 'absent', and it can be modified by a locative or other adverbial. So gone awry is just relative clause reduced by Whiz-Deletion. It's an astonishingly common phenomenon, because all it takes is a relative clause with a predicate adjective or any verb phrase chain beginning with a form of be. And there are a lot of them. Jun 30, 2014 at 23:11
  • @Stoney I'd say far from unique can be distinguished from far from London by a) the whole thing being transposable (a far from unique problem vs. a *far from London flat) and b) the negative intensifier being substitutable with other negators, like not: problems not unique to the Beeb vs. *flats not London. As for whether these are reduced relative clauses or postposed participial adjectives—are they even different? I cannot think of any real difference between the two. Jun 30, 2014 at 23:14
  • @John The difference here is, I would say, that this gone definitely does not mean ‘absent’. This is have gone awry, not are gone (awry). Jun 30, 2014 at 23:16
  • There are a lot of idioms with go: gone fishing, gone to one's reward, gone to try one's luck, gone but not forgotten, gone to seed, ... The gloss is not the issue, but the structure is the same, and the structure is all the rule requires. Jun 30, 2014 at 23:20

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