I've quite a specific question regarding participle clauses. I recently wrote:

"Having painted what he bothered, John began packing his brushes."

Or should it be:

"Having painted what he had bothered, John began packing his brushes."

Even though the first example sounds better; logically, John firstly had been bothered to paint the bare walls, and after that he started packing.

Thank you for any input.

  • The clauses in bold are meaningless and unnatural at best, and ungrammatical at worst. How can you say "He painted the thing(s) that he bothered"? Think about it. – user36764 Aug 11 '16 at 11:31
  • The second one sounds a little better to me, although both are a little odd. If I interpret you correctly, you mean "He painted as much as he bothered to"? – stangdon Aug 11 '16 at 11:59
  • @stangdon Yes, like in the idiom "I cannot be bothered," well, John could be bothered, but only with painting some of it. – Jakub Aug 11 '16 at 12:17
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    One way would be to say: Having painted what he wanted, John began packing up his brushes. – user36764 Aug 11 '16 at 12:29
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    @Jakub It is time to invoke FumbleFingers's Perfect Truism: ”Don’t use the perfect unless you need it.” I would phrase it as: Having painted what he pleased... – P. E. Dant Aug 11 '16 at 17:15

Bother has a couple of meanings, one is "to disturb", and bother with X or bother to X means "to do X given that X is considered a non-required or unimportant task".

"Having painted what he bothered, John began packing his brushes."

This sentence really sounds like you are saying he is painting a person or thing that he disturbed.

You can add the preposition "to" or "with" afterward to clarify this. To is probably the best choice.

"Having painted what he bothered to, John began packing his brushes."

The rules for using perfect or non-perfect tenses in the first phrase are the same as if you were writing a full sentence, the fact that things are a participle phrase (it's not really a clause) doesn't change anything.

Without the had, you are giving the impression John left right after he got bored with painting. With the had, there may have been something happening in between that you talked about earlier or will later talk about.

  • If I understand you correctly you're saying that fragment: "John having painted what he had wanted..." functions much in the same way as statement: "John had painted what he had wanted," is that right? Doesn't it contradict what @PaulM said in his comment(?): I think the past perfect "had wanted" is inappropriate here. "Want" is not really anterior to "paint..." – Jakub Aug 12 '16 at 8:01
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    Having painted what he bothered with or without to is skimming the surface of what is not grammatical. It really doesn't make sense. – Lambie Feb 10 '17 at 13:35

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