The rule is that if the adjective clause has only a single adjective, we should replace it before the noun e.g.: "the window that is broken was fixed by Tom" is reduced to "the broken window was fixed by Tom".

However, I have seen on several occasions the reduced clause placed after the noun, despite being single in the complete clause e.g.:

  • The man responsible told me get out of here = the man (who is responsible) told me get out of here
  • The people present started to shout = the people (who are present) started to shout

Is there any explanation for this?

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU! I'm afraid your question is difficult to read; you're likely to get more and quicker responses if you take care to capitalize and punctuate correctly. Jan 19, 2019 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


Rather than asking about reduced adjective (or relative) clauses, you should be asking about the position of adjectives within the noun phrase.

Attributive adjectives will usually precede the nouns they modify, but will follow them if a particular meaning needs to be conveyed:

  • The responsible man refers to a man who acts in a responsible way.

  • The man responsible refers to the person who is in charge.

When placed before the noun, "present" means "current". That is why "the present people" is a highly unlikely phrase. Instead:

  • The people present refers to those who are in attendance.
  • I would suggest "the man responsible" is someone to whom something should be attributed. The person in charge is unlikely to be the man responsible for breaking the window.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 19, 2019 at 23:28
  • The man responsible is ambiguous. My first thought is not the person in charge but the guilty party. (Nonetheless, I agree with the main point that the position of the adjective makes a difference here.) Jan 20, 2019 at 3:43
  • I wonder what it is that decides the meaning of "present" if placed either before or after "people". In the case of "responsible" it means something different whether placed before or after "man", but in a different way from "present". In other words does each adjective that can optionally go before or after a noun have two separate meanings based on what adjective it is, or is there a rule that explains the different meanings?
    – Zebrafish
    Jan 20, 2019 at 7:44

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