Chairs left outside get taken.

What type of (passive) construction is the sentence above?

And why is it preferred to the present passive construction 'Chairs that are left outside get taken'?

  • Preferred in speech for their economy.
    – TimR
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:28

3 Answers 3


Chairs [left outside] get taken.

The bracketed constituent is a past-participial clause modifying "chairs". Past-participials (and gerund-participials) are semantically similar to relative clauses: compare:

Chairs [that are left outside] get taken.

But they are not analysed as relative clauses since there's no possibility of them containing a relative phrase (cf.* Chairs which left outside ...").

Past-participial modifiers are bare passives as evident from the admissibility of a by phrase in internalised complement function (cf. Chairs left outside by their owners get taken).

  • 2
    +1 I far prefer this analysis to the standard TFG understanding of these as 'reduced relatives'. Personally, I prefer to understand the construction as, say German, does, as an adjectival postposed in English because its head has a following complement; but I'm ornery that way. Oct 3, 2018 at 18:46
  • Is this TFG? ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/annotation/…
    – TimR
    Oct 3, 2018 at 18:57
  • Chairs [that are] left outside get taken. Same meaning with or without "that are" and with or without their owners. That merely shows they are passive. versus: Chairs that rotted away outside got taken. That=introduces the restrictive clause.
    – Lambie
    Oct 3, 2018 at 22:01
  • I said "semantically similar"! It's not just a case of "merely showing they are passive". The modifying clauses are structurally different in that relative clause are (almost always) finite, whereas past-participial clauses are non-finite.
    – BillJ
    Oct 4, 2018 at 6:39
  • Why is there no such thing as BE-deletion? These analytical frameworks seem capricious to me. water brought to a boil is water <del>which BE</del> brought to a boil. And why not call it zero-relative instead of wh-deletion?
    – TimR
    Oct 4, 2018 at 12:19

1) Chairs that are left outside get taken. is the same as:

Chairs left outside get taken.

Both are passive constructions, one just omits the "that are".

The chairs that I left outside were taken. = The chairs I left outside were taken.

[that are] left outside and [that] I left outside are objects in a relative clause. They can be left out.

2) We have many chairs that rotted away outside. [that is the subject of the relative clause]

The passive construction is not what counts in terms of leaving out the "that" or that + are/is. It is how it functions in the clause. **Is the word "that" acting as a subject or not?**If so, it must be left in. See 2) above.

The apples [that are] taken to market are usually very good.

The same logic applies there. It works the same way as explanation 1).

[sorry, but I prefer take here. That's another issue.]


These reduced relative clauses modify the subject.

Windows painted black are opaque.

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