I found this article about Participle Phrases, It's the first time I hear about them. I always thought they are all reduced relative clauses.

How do they differ from reduced relative clauses?

Consider this example:

Removing his glasses, the professor shook his head with disappointment.

It seems like the original sentence could be like

While the professor was removing his glasses, he shook his head with disappointment.

That is obviously more complicated than a simple reduced relative clause. Right? How many types are there? I mean which phrases can be reduced to a particle-phrase?

  • They are usually referred to as "adverbial participles", relative clauses require relative pronouns. "While" is not a relative pronoun, though. "while" is a subordinate conjunction which is usually used to form adverbial clauses.
    – Cardinal
    Sep 16, 2016 at 17:02
  • Slightly different from "while" which means "concurrently" is the idea that an action is collateral to or incidental to another action. Clearly the professor would have difficulty shaking his head while removing his glasses, or difficulty removing his glasses while shaking his head.
    – TimR
    Sep 16, 2016 at 17:51
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    Sep 17, 2016 at 9:58
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2 Answers 2


I guess the difference is in terms of terminology and word order in the sentence. While participles should precede the Subject of the main clause and should be separted by a comma, the reduced relative clause always follows the subject of the main clause or the obect of the main clause.

Hopefully, that helps.


When introducing a sentence, a participle phrase functions as a modifier to a main clause ; therefore, it functions adverbially. You can change the same sentence and make the participle modify the noun phrase "the professer" so you can say: "The professor, removing his glasses, ... " in that case, it would be a reduced relative clause.

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