I think you always see sentences like these:

Asked whether he intended to return soon(when he was asked), he replied that he would be away for about three months. or Squeezed by ice(as the steamer was squeezed by ice), the steamer could not continue her way.

and maybe they are clear enough for you because of English being your native language but for me usually sentences like those are not clear enough so my question is that how do you like the following ?

When asked whether he intended to return soon, he replied that he would be away for about three months. As squeezed by ice, the steamer could not continue her way. or As asked(as he was asked) he was forced to interrupt his work When squeezed by ice(when the steamer was squeezed by ice), the steamer was out of a fuel.

  • 3
    Given that, apart from the first sentence in your last paragraph, the others do not sound right to me, I'm completely at a loss at what you are asking here. If you were looking for clearer ways of expressing what in your opinion is obscure (or difficult) in the initial examples, I'm afraid you did not succeed.
    – Paola
    Jun 2, 2012 at 18:16
  • 2
    The original sentences are crystal clear to me — and English is not my first language —, while your rewordings with "as" strike me as ungrammatical, and the rewordings with "when" don't mean the same thing as the original. My personal advice would be to just learn the language as she is spoke rather than to reinvent it. Try to wrap your head around English, not vice versa.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jun 2, 2012 at 18:59
  • As it was squeezed by ice, the steamer could not continue on her way. One of the things I remember my English teacher writing on one of my papers was this: "Be careful using as for because, as it can lead to confusion." - I was never sure whether he realized what he'd done there or not.
    – Jim
    Jun 2, 2012 at 19:01

3 Answers 3

  • Asked whether he intended to return soon, he replied that he would be away for about three months.
  • Squeezed by ice, the steamer could not continue her way.

These two sentences do sound grammatically correct to my ear. As for the suggestions you offered, here are my personal opinions:

  • When asked whether he intended to return soon, he replied that he would be away for about three months.

This is perfectly alright.

  • As squeezed by ice, the steamer could not continue her way.

The grammar does sound a bit off here. I am not someone who has a very sound knowledge of all the grammatical terms, so I'm unable to tell you what exactly went wrong. Personally, though, I would exchange as for due to being or because she was.

  • When squeezed by ice, the steamer was out of fuel.

Here, the grammar is alright. However, the sentence doesn't make much sense, because this sentence simply indicates that moment at which the steamer was squeezed by ice is when the steamer went out of fuel. I'm not too sure what kind of context will you use it in.

  • As asked he was forced to interrupt his work.

This sentence is quite lacking as there is no context. Who is the person asking? What is he asking for? Given these two additional factors, a sentence that goes Asked by the janitor for help to clean the restroom, he had to interrupt his work would make a whole lot more sense.

Personally, I feel that the first two sentences that you provided are perfectly alright, and there is little to no reason for you to change them. With the preceding word (preposition?) omitted, it is up to the reader to decide whether the author is suggesting a point of time, or reason. This also makes the sentence succinct, which in turn makes the prose more "flowy" and comfortable.


I agree with Paola that your first example is right.

Basically, what you're doing wrong is that you're trying to bring back the sentences with "+ed" Clauses to Compound sentences. When the point of using the "+ed" Clauses in the first place is to shorten the sentences.

What you should do is stick to one style: Do you wanna use "+ed" Clauses or Connectors (e.g. as, when, while etc.)? Either is fine, but remember that when you use the latter, you might as well say the complete sentence (without omission):


When S + V, S + V.

As S + V, S + V.

Learners and non-native speakers of the language find this way practical because, when it comes to Clauses, you can omit sometimes but not all the time.

Take a look:

When + V+ing, = Ok

While + V+ing, = Ok

As + V+ing, = X

When + V+ed, = Ok

While + V+ed, = Ok

As + V+ed, = X

It has something to do with the possible tenses of either "+ing" or "+ed" Clause, but I think the list above is handy enough.

P.S. Clauses with the meaning of reason is another topic for another day ;-)

  • You say 'As + V+ing, = X', but "As heating causes the metal to expand..."? You say 'As + V+ed, = X', but "As expected, he did not turn up"? Jun 3, 2012 at 12:32
  • Hi Roaring Fish. "As heating" is actually "As + Gerund/ Noun" which is technically in V+ing form
    – Cool Elf
    Jun 3, 2012 at 16:32
  • But it doesn't belong to the "+ing" Participial Phrases. The same goes with "As expected" because the Subject "He" doesn't receive the action of the Verb "expected"
    – Cool Elf
    Jun 3, 2012 at 16:34
  • but here we have a participle phrase : "As pointed out in the previous chapter astronomers are by no means of one mind as to this phenomenon."
    – user21649
    Jun 4, 2012 at 8:26
  • I'm sorry but what does "As heating causes the metal to expand..." mean exactly? When metals are heated they expand. or Because of being heated metals expand. ?
    – user21649
    Jun 4, 2012 at 8:29

Ok, having studied a few classical languages, I think I may be able to help you out here.

The first two sentences you gave were participial phrases ("Asked...", "Squeezed..."). A participle is a so-called "verbal-noun" which means that in different instances it may modify a verb or a noun.

Therefore we say;

I saw the running horse (adjectival participle [modifies a noun]).
Spitting out the food, he said, "No!" (adverbial participle [modifies a verb]).

A participle is therefore a very unique part of speech, because it finds its place by its relation to other words in the sentence. However, I think the real issue you are having with the above, is not just the participles, but there particular usage in these sentences; and it is difficult to answer because of the obscurity of it.

The uses of the participles here are that of an "absolute" sense, and so they don't relate to a specific verb or noun in the sentence, but the WHOLE of the sentence. They kind of stand by themselves grammatically, but give context to the sentence logically.

The sense is really like the following suggests;

Assuming the situation that he was asked, he replied ...
Assuming the situation that it was squeezed, the steamer ...

The reason your second suggestion doesn't gel with native English speakers is because to add a preposition/particle to the beginning specifies the participle as something more than the original sentence does. And the first case does the same, but it sounds acceptable because it is a proper, albeit different use of the participle, and really says more than the first case wants to as well.

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