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Original reference: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/03/world/taiwan-plane-crash-transasia/index.html?hpt=ob_galleryfooterexpansion&iref=obnetwork

In this case of usages of relative pronouns,

Thirteen people are confirmed dead and dozens remain missing after the TransAsia Airways ATR-72, carrying 58 people, veered out of control en route from Taipei to Kinmen, off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen.

Some words are left out. What are the words being left out? Are they as shown bellow?

Thirteen people are confirmed dead and dozens remain missing after the TransAsia Airways ATR-72, (which was) carrying 58 people, veered out of control en route from Taipei to Kinmen, (which is) off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen.

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Thirteen people are confirmed dead and dozens remain missing after the TransAsia Airways ATR-72, (which was) carrying 58 people, veered out of control en route from Taipei to Kinmen, (which is) off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen.

"Which was" in this case is optional. Some might say it is implied. I would prefer to replace it with "while" (or at least an implied "while"). Doing so would understand the emphasis as on the number of people on board as the plane veered out of control.

As for "which is," there is a dilemma. Does "off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen" describe the island of Kinmen, or does it instead describe the place where (en route to Kinmen) the plane veered out of control? Both seem to be possible.

If "off the coast..." is meant to describe the island, "which is" could be inserted here. Even then, it could be implied.

If the place of the crash is what the writer intended to describe by "off the coast," "which is" would be impossible. He/she could rewrite the sentence, stating, "...veered out of control off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen, en route from Taipei to Kinmen."

Unfortunately, the writer neither included the words "which is," nor structured the sentence in this unambiguous way. Therefore, I am unable to determine which meaning the text is supposed to convey.

Obviously the writer of this news article did not expect his/her grammar to be deconstructed, and so unless the context reveals authorial intent, we may never know.

  • Kinmen is indeed an island off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen, but why "which is" is not possible if the latter is true? Thank you. – Superuser Feb 5 '15 at 7:45
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    Also, for the first which was/while, is it "(while it was) carrying 58 people"? – Superuser Feb 5 '15 at 7:47
  • Good question. "While it was" is equally acceptable. The verb ending with "ing" (the participle) becomes an adjective, whether preceded by the implied form of "to be" or alone. – Adrian W Feb 5 '15 at 7:54
  • The answer has been updated in response to your first comment. – Adrian W Feb 5 '15 at 7:56

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