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Can we change it to "...as when first discovered by Cartier"?

Is " when they were first discovered by Cartier" an adverb clause? Or does the adverb clause start with "as isolated as..."? Is either one of them reducible?

  • Your rephrasing sounds odd, and fails to capture the temporal aspect. Are you asking a question purely about syntax, or are you concerned about meaning at all? – András Salamon Apr 15 '16 at 8:06
  • It is a syntactic question, and I want to know whether this reduction is possible or not. Of course turning the sentence into a semantically odd one is not acceptable. I am a non-native English teacher and this is one of the questions in a pamphlet I have. We are supposed to reduce adverb clauses if possible. For example: "When the boy was told to go to bed, he began to cry" can be easily changed into "when told to go to bed, the boy began to cry". but can we do the same with the sentence in my initial question? – Masoud Apr 15 '16 at 8:28
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One alternative: "...as when Cartier discovered them."

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  • Thanks for the answer. I know that alternatives exist, but I solely need to know whether adverb clause reduction is possible in this sentence or not. – Masoud Apr 15 '16 at 6:53
  • It's a really good idea to get rid of the passive voice here. – Spencer Apr 15 '16 at 10:20
  • I was just suggesting how I'd rewrite it for clarity. Whether it qualifies as adverb clause reduction I'll leave for you to decide. ;-) – John Visosky Apr 16 '16 at 9:08
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You can, but as pointed out in the comments you need to keep the temporal aspect or it changes the meaning of the sentence.

In winter, the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as first discovered by Cartier.

This would parse as Cartier having been the first person to discover that the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as another place which was presumably referred to before this sentence. For example.

[blurb about an island that's pretty isolated]. In winter, the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated, as first discovered by Cartier.

that obviously isn't the context you wanted. It works if you keep the "when" though:

In winter, the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as [they were] when [they were] first discovered by Cartier.

this correctly communicates that the islands are nearly just as isolated as they were when Cartier first discovered them. I've included the elided words in square brackets to show where the ellipsis or "reduction" is happening.

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  • Thank you very much for your clear answer. Considering what you said, can I now know about your answer to the question that I have in my pamphlet? Let's say that there is no room for extra explanation. It is just a grammar test and we are supposed to identify if the sentence has an adverb clause that can be reduced, and if it does, write the necessary changes to reduce it. – Masoud Apr 15 '16 at 11:22
  • I would say "Yes it has an adverb clause that can be reduced, by removing the "they were". – John Clifford Apr 15 '16 at 11:30
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The basic structure of

In winter, the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as when they were first discovered by Cartier.

is

Subject (the Magdalen Islands)     Copular-Verb (are)     Predicate Complement (isolated)

The predicate complement is an adjective, modified by an adverbial phrase of degree (almost as) and an adverbial prepositional phrase of comparison (as when they were first discovered by Cartier). The object of the prepositional phrase is the clause starting with when. The clause acts as a noun phrase, giving a particular point in time. This may be easier to see in the similar sentence when object gives a particular point in space:

In winter, The Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as Antarctica.

The when is critical to establishing a comparison. The sense is

as [now] ... as when

with the now understood from the present tense of the verb in the main clause. If you drop just the when to get

In winter, the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as they were first discovered by Cartier.

you will run into a clash with a different meaning of as, namely because of, as in this sentence:

As they were first discovered by Cartier, the islands were originally French territory.

If you remove when they are to get

In winter, the Magdalen Islands are almost as isolated as first discovered by Cartier.

you will run into a clash with another meaning of as, namely during, as in this sentence.

As first discovered by Cartier, the Magdalen Islands are isolated.

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  • Thank you very much. Your explanation about the different parts of the sentence was really helpful. I'd really appreciate it if you told me what you would do if you saw this question in a grammar test. The original question is: If the sentence contains an adverb clause that can be reduced, write the changes necessary to reduce it. – Masoud Apr 15 '16 at 11:28
  • @Masoud If your teachers are native speakers, then I'd guess that the answer should be that the sentence doesn't contain an adverbial clause that can be reduced without introducing some jarring ambiguity. If your teachers are not native speakers, the I'd guess they were looking for a mechanical but grammatical way to to reduce one adverbial clause to another: as when first discovered by Cartier. The context of "as .. as" makes it clear that the result is a comparison, even if the diction isn't quite natural. Just my opinion. – deadrat Apr 15 '16 at 19:19

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