While "The woman who lived next door was a doctor" can be reduced to

"The woman living next door was a doctor",

the sentence

"The woman who called me was a doctor"

cannot be reduced to

"The woman calling me was a doctor".

Perhaps if the tense (or aspect?!) were past continuous it would make sense. But in the first example the tense is also simple past, yet the reduction is meaningful. Is there any reasoning behind this one could explain to their students?


  • 2
    I don't agree that "The woman calling me was a doctor" is unacceptable. It's just a little unusual-sounding as a standalone sentence. In context: "I suddenly realised why I was getting such informed advice. The woman calling me was a doctor" the grammar sounds unremarkable (though I'm not sure why I was unaware of the lady's profession). // Your terminology (as in the title) has possibly been largely superseded. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '19 at 16:56
  • Thank you, and how can we reduce an adjective clause to an adjective phrase if the tense is past perfect? For example how can "The woman who had eaten the cake was a patient of mine" be reduced, if possible at all? – user323595 Nov 8 '19 at 17:04
  • @Levi Hellenistic Greek does it well, since Greek is more flexible with participles. The having eaten cake woman was a patient of mine is how it might go in Greek. But we don't idiomatically speak like that in English. Sadly. – Nigel J Nov 8 '19 at 17:40
  • You have no examples of reduced relative clauses. Reduced relative clauses just means removing that or whom (who) or which. Not using a different verb form (live vs. living). – Lambie Nov 8 '19 at 17:59
  • "Adjective clause" and "adjective phrase" are not standard terms in English grammar (I changed them in the title). The examples given are restrictive relative clauses and participle phrases, which both have their own special syntax. As for the difference between the participles, the verb live denotes a continuous state, so a present participle works fine, but the verb call denotes a punctual event, so a present participle is not appropriate. – John Lawler Nov 8 '19 at 18:00

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