In the 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall writes:

Arrived at the church, she and Wanda would stand looking down between the tall, massive columns of the porch, on a Paris of domes and mists, only half revealed by the fitful sunshine.

The arrived at the church struck me as equivalent to formulations such as [having] arrived at the church or [after they] arrived at the church, and when I first read it, it sounded awkward.

With some experimentation, I noticed that there were some cases where an auxiliary have could be omitted in a modifiers of this variety. I am not considering cases where the modifier clearly has a passive voice construction and where be is omitted. (An example of a construction that clearly uses passive voice: [Since she was] worked to the bone, she quickly ended up in a psychiatric ward. Since she was can be omitted without issue.) Examples include:

  • [After she/Having] Graduated from the university, she was left without a safety net.

  • [Having] Departed for work, he did not see his house burn to ashes.

Meanwhile, certain constructions are impermissible and require have:

  • Eaten the whole cake, he was stuffed.

  • Slept like a baby, she was well-rested the following day.

  • Sped while driving through the neighborhood, he got a ticket.

Constructions with been or become — e.g. Been sick for the last ten days, she was very behind on work. — are also unacceptable. (been appears to be special; one solution there is simply to drop been as well.) So are constructions with verbs related to wanting something:

  • Wanted to study at Chicago for a long time, he was disappointed when he learned that his application had been rejected.

  • Alternatively: Wished for her son to study at Chicago for a long time, she was disappointed …

  • Hoped that direct elections would eventually come, she was angry about the Central Government's decision.

What exactly governs the acceptability of these constructions, where auxiliary have is omitted before a past participle in a modifying phrase? (For instance, does this have anything to do with certain grammatical qualities of the verb being used? Alternatively, is my analysis of the acceptable constructions missing something?) I'm having trouble pinpointing that, so I'd like some input.

  • This question alludes to the same problem but does not cover the broader grammatical rules, so I'm assuming it's not a direct duplicate.
    – Maroon
    May 18, 2017 at 0:17
  • It appears that it works for stative constructions.
    – Jim
    May 18, 2017 at 0:41
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    Great question! Two things come to mind. 1. It is less likely to be possible if the verb can have a direct object. 2. It is probably sometimes related to the history of a verb: some of the acceptable verbs used to have a present perfect with be, such as arrive, come, and go (it is arrived, it is come, it is gone, in increasing degrees of modernity). May 18, 2017 at 1:18
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    I think it has to do with whether the participle of the verb may work as an adjective is the given context. Consider Tolkien's I am come with counsel and tidings in this dark hour. Although unusual now, this constuction used to be widespread. As to your examples, we can say I am graduated from the university and I am arrived at the church, but we cannot say I am eaten the cake or I am slept like a baby. Jul 3, 2017 at 15:56
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    I'm not sure exactly. This is a bit odd. "Slept like a baby..." in your example actually becomes acceptable when used in present participle form, "Sleeping like a baby, she was well-rested....". I have an inclination that some of this is archaic usage, some is idiomatic, and it does appear it might also have to do with certain verbs past/present participle history and how it relates to the object of the sentence. Good question though.
    – Kace36
    Jul 11, 2017 at 20:47

3 Answers 3


There are two ways to write this sentence. 1. Arrived at the church, she would stand looking down between the columns. 2. Having arrived at the church, she looked down between the columns.

Here we have an adverbial clause, describing the state of things while she is looking down between the columns. In this case, the state or her position is that of her arrival to the church, where she is when she looks down between the columns. Here is another example.

  1. The child, located by the rescue dog, was reunited with his parents.
  2. Located by the rescue dog, the child was reunited with his parents.
  3. The child, located by the rescued dog, would stand there wondering if they were not far behind him.

In this case, the adjective clause describes which child was reunited with his parents. He was the one found by the rescue dog.

The sentence, written in the third way, is sometimes used when narrating a story, especially in a TV program about life and death.

"The man, beneath the bolder and suffering from the cold, would spend the next ten days without food."

So returning to the aforementioned excerpt from the novel, if we rearrange the sentence to read less awkwardly, it could be written as seen below.

She and Wanda, arrived at the church, would stand looking between the columns.

Grammatically, the original sentence doesn't violate any rules, but likely your English teacher would mark it in red and ask you to revise it.

A few other examples: The couple, newly wed, will begin their honeymoon tomorrow. The man, deceased, left his will to the youngest child. The apple, eaten by the worms, would decompose over the next ten days.


Participles are of ambiguous type; they can be predominantly verbal or adjectival, adverbial, or an admixture of all or, at times, giving predominance one over the others. Grammarians are divided in their opinions about the functioning of participle. Moreover, participles have both pre-nominal and post- nominal usages.

Past participles mostly convey a passive sense when formed from transitive verbs; but that is not to say that some participles formed from intransitive verbs cannot be used in an active sense. A Wikipedia example :


It is my modest and humblest endeavour to keep this otherwise complicated issue of participle at its barest skeleton. Some past participles can also be used as modifying head of a noun phrase.

  • Handed over in the next meeting, I will carefully examine the report.

Perfect participle clauses are specifically used when one action has a marked precedence over the action stated in the main clause and the writer wants to drag our attention to that effect in particular. So an -ed/-en participle must not necessarily be a passive particle. They can be participal form of accusative verbs, i.e. motion verbs or verbs expressing a change of state(Burzio 1986).

  • The train RECENTLY ARRIVED AT PLATFORM 1, is from York.(Quirk et al.1985 p.1265)

In such usages we are less squeamish about restrictions on the tense form of the finite verbal of the sentential relative clause.

Now the example in the instant post.— Arrived at the church, she and Wanda— may be viewed as a verbal form with adjectival properties. In its pre-nominal application participles are more adjectival than verbal (as in working mother).The STATE in which the characters are in, is the writer's prime concern— not the precedence, rather their condition in which they find themselves. Admitted that such uses are rare, but not altogether unwarranted.

  • 2
    Fallen leaves and recently arrived trains are two things and could you explain Handed over in the next meeting, I will carefully examine the report, please? To me it seems that demands a preface such as If it is… Aug 14, 2017 at 23:37
  • You are right, but consider at the same time that participle phrases are in reality reduced subordinate clauses of your description. Please consider this one : Read in the proper context the passage reveals the beauty of fall in England. Here also you may use a dummy(cataphoric) IT to lay the stress on after subordinating IF. Aug 15, 2017 at 16:23
  • Thanks, Barid. If you're suggesting an overlap between Handed over in the next meeting… and Read in the proper context… that doesn't extend to the end of their sentences. I will (anything) and the passage reveals (anything) shatter that illusion. Aug 15, 2017 at 16:36
  • FWIW the handed over case reads oddly to me, because it clearly modifies report, and I've been taught (and it makes sense to me intuitively) to put modifiers directly adjacent to what they modify.
    – Maroon
    Aug 29, 2017 at 23:51
  • Not exactly. What we have to make sure that participles(present/past/perfect / barring nominative absolute) must've their nouns or noun substitutes to qualify in the main clause lest they might not be dangling.The example mentioned is from authoritative source, but can't exactly say where from presently. Aug 31, 2017 at 3:48

Here the participle is able to act like an adjective. This is similar to: "Beaten, but not defeated, he trudged on." "Awoken by shouting, she looked the window."

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