I have a question about restrictive/nonrestrictive clauses, and more specifically if they apply to the following sentence:

A group of Spartan soldiers, having hidden themselves in the hollow wooden horse, crept out and opened the city gate when night fell.

In this sentence, is the clause beginning with "having hidden" a nonrestrictive clause?

Another example:

Aphrodite, having won the contest, helped Paris take Helen to Troy as she had promised.

Again, is the "having won..." clause nonrestrictive?

1 Answer 1


‘Non-Restrictive’ and ‘Restrictive’ are terms used to describe Non-Independent Relative Clauses (Non-Restrictive) and Independent Relative Clauses (Restrictive), which commonly begin with 'who, whom, which, that, where,' etc. Your sentences are actually in the form of Perfect Participle Clauses wherein the Relative Clauses have undergone a grammatical transition.

Your first sentence began by using the Relative Clause:

‘A group of Spartan soldiers who hid themselves in the hollow horse, crept out… ‘ In this form it is a Restrictive Relative Clause – the ‘who’ specifically/restrictively refers to the ‘Spartan soldiers’.

[Aside: You could elect to place a comma before the 'who'; as a Non-Restrictive Clause it would work grammatically but I think the implied sense of ‘this particular bunch of soldiers’ makes the Restrictive option more apt and further meaningful. Read on.]

Now, the Relative Clause ‘who hid themselves…’ can then be replaced by the Participle Clause, ‘having hid themselves…’, transferring all the nuances of meaning, with one important addition: the *‘having’* imparts a strong sense of finality and intentionality of the action in sequential preparedness for the following act of 'creeping out'.

Reverting to your question, the answer seems to lie somewhere in-between; its origins are as a Restrictive Clause but in its changed and final Participle Clause form, the term does not apply. Or at least, I have found no literature doing so. (sorry, couldn't resist that one)

The above also applies to your 'Aphrodite' sentence since it has the same grammatical structure.

[Final aside, promise: There may well be those who feel that the comma before 'crept out' is superfluous. I agree but I side with the reader since they are the ones who must unpack the meaning; I think it gives a bit of clarity as to what belongs to whom. In longer sentences I reckon erring on the side of caution by providing them with a comma flick-pause, means they don't have to do a double-take and back track to make sure of the meaning. Win, win for writer and reader. No biggie tho.]

  • A good answer to a question needing remedying. Sep 28, 2016 at 21:31

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