Can anyone explain to me what this sentence means? The grammar is confusing to me.

Is “have been” related to the person talking to himself, or could it relate to other people?

having been released from prison, many people subsequently reoffend.

  • Having been released from prison is not a sentence. It has no subject, for instance. It is participial phrase, a verb phrase that's reduced from a subordinate clause. Since it is a subordinate clause, you can't tell what it means until you know the rest of the sentence that it appears in. – John Lawler Jan 22 '19 at 20:10

The to be verb, been, refers to the many people, particularly any one of them, who was released from prison. It is past perfect, meaning it refers to their being released as an action in the past. It refers to their release and likelihood of reoffending all as a linked set of possible events in the past.


In this sentence, 'having been' refers to the many people who subsequently reoffend. It's really the whole subordinate clause, 'having been released from prison' that describes the people. It's an adjectival clause.

To see this, you can write the same sentence a little differently. 'Many people' is the subject of the sentence. The clause in bold describes the people. The verb is 'reoffend'.

Many people, having been released from prison, subsequently reoffend.

This clause also serves the purpose of setting the time frame of their reoffending. They reoffend after they have been released from prison. Putting this clause at the beginning of the sentence gives it emphasis. The important point in the sentence is that the reoffending takes place after they have been released from prison.

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