I know that the participle can be part of a verb to express continuous tense, perfect tense, passive voice. And it also can has a separate line as an adjective. The participle adjective have either active meaning or passive meaning. Ex : I am tired. ( I receive the adjective ) The book is interesting. ( I think the book is interesting, so I'm interested in reading the book.)

Recently, I have been learning the participle phrase which includes the participle and the object of the participle or any words modified by or related to the participle. The participle phrase does the whole job as an adjective. It can have either active meaning or passive meaning( like above ). Ex : Shocked at the size of the giant, she quickly ran for her life. ( she was shocked ) Having realized there is no hope for his job, he gave up. ( He had realize ) Looking at the hills, she remembered her childhood. ( she was looking at the hills )

Question 1 : Is there amy relation between participle adjective and participle phrase? (Though a participle phrase looks like a verb with object, it can function as an adjective.)

Question 2 : When do we use the present participle phrase? (at the same time as the action in the main part of the sentence?)

Question 3 : What can the present participle phrase reduce? (the continuous or simple tense? Or all of the active verbs can be reduced? )

Don't tell me it can reduce the relative clause. I know that.

Question 4 : Why do some grammar books and websites say that the participle phrase can also function as an adverbial? (Such as : After he had passed the exam, he went to study English abroad. > Passing the exam, he went to study English abroad.) What is that? It seems like an adverb being reduced to a gerund phrase with "after".

Question 5 : It is obvious that I'm confused. I wonder that either participle phrase or participle adjective do not show any tense right? (A phrase is a group of words without a finite verb, so I suppose that it does not show any tense as a non-finite.)

  • The use in Question 4 is adverbial because it describes the time at which he went to study abroad, whereas "Shocked at the size..." describes "she." – phoog Jul 10 '15 at 3:43
  • I edited your question. Please confirm; I'm not 100% certain about changing without "after" to with "after" – Brian Hitchcock Jul 10 '15 at 8:45
  • After passing the exam, he went to study English abroad. – Blod Mary Jul 10 '15 at 11:33

Those are some very good questions. They are not always entirely clear, partly because you don't always define your terms, such as "participle adjective"; but I will answer as best I can. The definition of "clause" that I use is the traditional one: a finite verb and its dependencies. By that definition, a participle and its dependencies don't make up a clause, but a phrase, hence "participial phrase". I am aware that some people use different definitions, and each definition has its benefits; but this is the one I have chosen.

Ad 1: yes, both are participles, and all participles function as adjectives to some degree, in that they modify a noun (or replace one, just as normal adjectives can when used substantively). Externally, participles function like adjectives, since they depend on nouns; internally, they function like verbs, because they can have verbal arguments that depend on them, just as other verbs have them (like objects and adverbs).

Ad 2: yes, the present participle generally describes something that happens at the same time as the main verb (but it's complicated).

Ad 3: a present participle can be equivalent to either continuous or simple clauses. I'm not a fan of the term "reduce" in linguistics, because it implies an actual historical or mental process of reduction (from clause to participle) that I believe never happened. By equivalence I mean two constructions that are different in form but have the same meaning (different syntax but same semantics).

Ad 4: again, I object to this notion of "reduction". In my opinion, there is only equivalence, and equivalence never has the last word in syntactic analysis, because you can often create several, different constructions equivalent to whatever phrase you're analysing.

What those books mean is that participles can be replaced by equivalent relative clauses, but also by equivalent adverbial clauses, as in your example, and also by other constructions. This is not unique to participial phrases.

The lying man deceived us. (participle)

Lying, the man deceived us. (same as above)

The man who lied deceived us. (relative clause)

The man deceived us when he lied. (conjunction: adverbial clause)

The man deceived us with his lies. (simple adverbial phrase containing a noun)

The man deceived us by lying. (simple adverbial phrase containing a gerund (gerunds function like nouns))

In your example, passing is simply a present participle modifying the subject, he. The only unusual aspect to the example is that the present participle can be said to happen before the main clause, which is normally not possible with present participles; but that is debatable. At any rate, that aspect is not relevant to adverbiality in general.

Ad 5: that depends on your definition of "tense", which is a hot topic in linguistics; but I would say that participles don't have tense according to most definitions. They don't refer to a specific time: the time to which they refer generally depends on the time to which the main verb of the sentence refers. A present participle refer to roughly the same time as that of the main verb, a past participle to a time before that of the main verb. So their tense is relative, one could say. In this respect, there is no difference between the ways the participle can be used (e.g. "participle phrase" or "participle adjective", or whatever distinctions the various grammar books choose to make).

I have given you some general answers; to everything I said there are most probably exceptions and nuances.

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I will try to add some clarity regarding your item #4.

The first thing I note is that "After he had passed the exam," is NOT a participial phrase, nor a phrase at all because it has its own subject and verb. This is an Adverbial Clause / a Dependent Clause modifying the verb 'went' and answering the adverbial question When(?).

This Adverbial Clause is also shown REDUCED TO or CONTRACTED TO a Participial Phrase. Now it is serving the function of an adjective regarding the subject of the independent clause. "Passing the exam, he went to study English abroad." Here, 'passing' does not connect grammatically to the verb 'went'. It modifies 'he' as if to say, "He, having passed the exam, went to study ..." "He, the man who passed the exam, went to study ..." "Tom, who passed the exam, went to study ..."

There are more modern definitions and rules, but I prefer the older, more straight forward definitions and rules which have served us long and well. haha

Sometimes, participles and participial phrases do serve as object complements which do modify the verbs: "I went to school knowing that I would succeed." 'knowing that I would succeed' completes the verb 'went'. I went how? I went knowing that I would succeed.

Adjectives do not move from their nouns. Adverbs can move around freely. If it can move, it's an adverb. "Knowing that I would succeed, I went to school." This could be called adjectival, but it can also be called adverbial.

I hope that I haven't created too much confusion or made modern grammerians angry. Some things need to be understood in order to make proper sentence structures, and some things are simply there to be debated endlessly. Good Luck.

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