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So I was trying to google this, but I have no idea how to describe my question. I tried a few different keywords and still couldn't find the answer.

Basically, I am wondering if there is any difference between this one:

I love studying mathematics, the subject that combines abstract theory with real world applications.

And this one

I love studying mathematics, the subject combining abstract theory with real world applications.

This might not be the best example but is the one that I can come up with right now. Are they grammatically correct? and is there any difference between them?

Thanks a lot.

  • Your first example uses a relative clause ('that combines abstract theory with real world applications.') Your second uses a participle clause (here, a present participle) ('combining abstract theory with real world applications.'). Both do the same job, telling us a (characterising, after 'the') fact about 'mathematics'. English Grammar Online actually has an exercise asking you to replace the former with the latter. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 10 '16 at 22:12
  • Because participle clauses can do the same job as relative clauses, they are called reduced relative clauses when used in this way. Perfect English Grammar has a good article. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 10 '16 at 22:26
  • Stylistically my professors always preferred the first (relative clause) but that doesn't mean both aren't grammatical – Unrelated Oct 25 '16 at 20:50
  • A gerund is a verb that was sent through a participle accelerator and smashed into a noun phrase. – Hot Licks Nov 23 '16 at 21:22
  • There was a question about this the other day (forget what it might have been called), where @BillJ and I discussed whether to call it a "reduced relative clause" or a "gerund-participial clause" (or maybe "phrase"; I'm not sure which criterion is active). Anyway, there are participial -ing verb phrases that are similar to (I would say "related to") relative clauses. But the relation is not universal, nor dependable. Whenever you make something untensed, you allow lots of other idiomatic uses, which cluster like barnacles. – John Lawler Dec 24 '16 at 0:13
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Both are correct, but I think combines sounds better because the use of combines sounds more like the statement of fact. Where combining is in the act of or present tense of mixing of abstract theory with real world applications. It isn't which is correct, but on how we perceive the deference between the two words used in the two sentences.

It would be interesting as to how you came about writing these sentences?

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I think both are grammatically correct. However, to me,

I love studying mathematics, the subject that combines abstract theory with real world applications.

sounds much better than

I love studying mathematics, the subject combining abstract theory with real world applications.

because of the variation in construction. On the other hand, without "the subject," you'd be talking about what you are doing rather than what the subject is, and the parallel construction would work better to my ear:

I love studying mathematics, combining abstract theory with real world applications.

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