He examined her, making her feel like a patient (who was) about to receive a bad diagnosis.

Can the who was be omitted? Why or why not?

  • Yes, it can be omitted, and it won't change the meaning of the sentence.
    – Kshitij
    Dec 30 '16 at 19:00

Yes, the phrase about to receive a bad diagnosis appearing directly after the noun patient is understood to modify patient, and who was is not required.

Why can it be omitted? Because a very large percentage of speakers omit it.

Why are they able to omit it without loss of clarity? Probably because the prepositional phrase coming immediately after the noun it modifies does not require a pronoun to attach itself to, and because the existential fact expressed by the verb-to-be need not be expressed explicitly; the preposition about expresses the idea implicitly.

about connects the action expressed by the infinitive phrase with the noun that is imminently going to perform that action:

A tree about to topple over...

A sad child about to cry...

An underpaid worker about to quit his job...

or have the action performed upon it:

A secret about to be revealed...

A camp fire about to be extinguished...

A new year about to be celebrated...

  • Isn't it a case of reduced relative clause?
    – Ahmad
    Dec 30 '16 at 19:25
  • Affixing the label reduced relative clause does not explain why it happens. In this particular case, the preposition about is complemented by an infinitive phrase, and in that sense it is a special kind of preposition. Do you have a label for it? Dec 30 '16 at 19:34
  • No! I just counted it as other relative clauses that just have some exceptions and the case above wasn't in them: isn't it the case one in eslgold.com/grammar/reduced_relative_clauses.html
    – Ahmad
    Dec 31 '16 at 4:13

Yes, as @TRomano said, it can be eliminated.

You may also want to consider changing the word "bad" from "bad diagnosis." Are you saying that the diagnosis is incorrect or that the diagnosis means the patient has a bad health issue? Though the context indicates that this sentence isn't the subject of the story, I prefer clarity in writing. (I would have commented rather than answer, but I don't have the required reputation points)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.