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There are many rules in using reduced relative clauses to avoid ambiguity. These rules appeared in different reference respectively. However, there are no unified rules. One reference often gives examples which break the rules from other references. For example:

Rules:

Reduced relative clauses can modify the subject NOT the object of a sentence. (1)

Example break it:

Origin: I like the paintings that hang in the SASB North lobby.

Reduced: I like the paintings hanging in the SASB North lobby. (2)

Origin: We stood on the bridge which connects the two halves of the city.

Reduced: We stood on the bridge connecting the two halves of the city.(wwwdotgrammarbankdotcomslashreduced-relative-clausesdothtml)(Sorry, I can add only two links .)

Rules:

Non-defining relative clauses can use most relative pronouns (which, whose etc,) but they CAN’T use ‘that’ and the relative pronoun can never be omitted.(learnenglishdotbritishcouncildotorgslashenslashquick-grammarslashrelative-clauses-non-defining-relative-clauses)

Example break it:

Origin: The product, which seemed perfect in many ways, failed to succeed in the market.

Reduced: The product, perfect in many ways, failed to succeed in the market.(1)

Origin: I am moving to Louisville, KY, which is home to the Muhammad Ali Museum.

Reduced: I am moving to Louisville, KY, home to the Muhammad Ali Museum.(2)

So I am confused how to use it.

I list all the possible cases in relative clause below.

What's your opinion and advice for them? Which is clear in meaning? Which will lead to ambiguity?

Which rules should I obey? Which should be ignored? Or ignore all the rules, and just be really careful when using reduced relative clauses?

1.Restrictive relative clause modifies the subject of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the subject of the relative clause.

- The cat that was raised by Tom caught a mouse.

- **Reduce**: The cat raised by Tom caught a mouse.

2.Restrictive relative clause modifies the object of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the subject of the relative clause.

- The cat caught the mouse that was raised by Tom.

- **Reduce:** The cat caught the mouse raised by Tom.

3.Restrictive relative clause modifies the subject of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the object in the relative clause.

- The cat that Tom raised caught a mouse.

- **Reduce:** The cat Tom raised caught a mouse.

4.Restrictive relative clause modifies the object of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause.

- The cat caught the mouse that Tom raised.

- **Reduce:** The cat caught the mouse Tom raised.

5.Nonrestrictive relative clause modifies the subject of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the subject of the relative clause.

- The cat, which was raised by Tom, caught a mouse.

- **Reduce:** The cat, raised by Tom, caught a mouse.

6.Nonrestrictive relative clause modifies the object of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the subject of the relative clause.

- The cat caught the mouse, which was raised by Tom.

- **Reduce:** The cat caught the mouse, raised by Tom.

7.Nonrestrictive relative clause modifies the subject of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause.

- The cat, which Tom raised, caught a mouse.

- **Reduce:** The cat, Tom raised, caught a mouse.

8.Nonrestrictive relative clause modifies the object of the main clause, the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause.

- The cat caught the mouse, which Tom raised.

- **Reduce:** The cat caught the mouse, Tom raised.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Hellion, Nigel J, jimm101, curiousdannii, Skooba Dec 6 '17 at 14:29

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • My advice to you is to forget the term 'reduced relative clause'. It's a misnomer. Such clauses are non-finite gerund-participial or past participial clauses, not some 'hybrid' form of relative clause. Semantically, they are similar, but we don't call them relatives since there's no possibility of inserting a relative phrase, cf. the ungrammatical *"The cat which raised by Tom". – BillJ May 5 '17 at 9:42
  • @BillJ Thank you for your opinion. But you do not understand my question. It is not how to call them confuses me. How to use them to avoid ambiguity does. – Whisper of heart May 5 '17 at 10:02
  • I'll change tense to eliminate one reason your examples sound unnatural. – Edwin Ashworth May 5 '17 at 10:16
  • 2, 4, and 8 are ambiguous. But that's because the original versions are ambiguous, unless you wanted to infer that in all three examples the animal raised by Tom is the mouse. – Mari-Lou A May 5 '17 at 10:34
  • What are the 8 sources that you seem to be citing from? You can provide links at the bottom of the page. – Mari-Lou A May 5 '17 at 10:35
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1, 2, 3 and 4 sound natural when the 'that' is deleted, and deletion presents no ambiguity problems.

5 sounds natural (if a little formal) when the 'which was' is deleted, but I think that 'having been / because it had been raised by Tom' (ie Tom had trained it well) is the default expansion. So I'd take 'raised by Tom' as supplying an explanation rather than just an additional piece of information (one could argue that this makes the shorter form less ambiguous!)

6 sounds unnatural without the 'which was' and is probably ungrammatical. 7 and 8 are worse.

Apologies; I can't remember coming across a treatment either in a grammar or an article dealing with all these cases.

  • Thank you very much. But is 2 a little ambiguous? "raised by Tom" modifies "The cat" or "The mouse"? But the example listed in the question: " We stood on the bridge connecting the two halves of the city." – Whisper of heart May 5 '17 at 14:40
  • So, you mean just pay more attention when using it? – Whisper of heart May 5 '17 at 14:46
  • [2b] is not ambiguous; it must be a whiz-deletion (of [2a]). // 'connecting' is synonymous with 'which connects / which connected' // 'when using' what? //// Avoidance of 'ambiguity' in a sentence is not always what determines acceptability; otherwise ambiguous strings are frequently disambiguated by larger context (and, in speech, by intonation). – Edwin Ashworth May 5 '17 at 15:48
  • Oh, sorry for that.// " when using what?" means when using the reduced relative clause.//// May I conclude your opinion as follows: only in the nonrestrictive cases, the using of reduced relative clause should be really careful : If the relative clause modifies the object of the main clause, the relation between the main and relative clause(explain? additional information? Happen at the same time or so? ) should be care; in other cases, it is wired. – Whisper of heart May 6 '17 at 6:33
  • I rarely generalise when it comes to English. 'The horse raced past the barn fell down' is a famous garden-path sentence, totally grammatical and unambiguous, but better avoided. – Edwin Ashworth May 6 '17 at 7:41
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Trying to find rules that will ensure that your sentences are unambiguous is ultimately pointless, as no set of rules can ensure that you have not written something that will be misunderstood.

As ELU shows repeatedly, teachers of English and those who create exam questions often make mistakes.

The alternative to memorizing rules and seeking always to find more rules is to read good contemporary English texts to become familiar with how skilled writers use the language. See "Antimoon" for one example of information about the problems with rules and learning English without memorizing rules.

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