1

Is it OK to reduce the relative clause below:

I have a plant which eats bugs.

into:

I have a plant eating bugs.

If so, I suppose it is still more natural to say:

I have a bug eating plant.

If so, then what are the occasions where one would prefer a reduced relative clause in active voice?

2

I have a plant eating bugs would normally be taken to imply that the plant is actually eating bugs at the moment, rather than that it was a plant which does eats bugs.

I think this is because if you undo the Whiz deletion,

I have a plant eating bugs.

corresponds to

I have a plant which is eating bugs.

This is a different claim from

I have a plant which eats bugs.

There is no way to perform Whiz deletion on that, because there is no "is".

On the other hand,

I have a bug-eating plant.

does not usually imply that the eating is going on at present, because "bug-eating" is normally interpreted as a specifying the kind of plant rather than an ephemeral property.

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  • 1
    Thanks! What about "there are millions of visitors coming to Hong Kong every year "? Those people aren't exactly coming to Hong Kong at the moment. – Kent Tong Oct 1 '19 at 13:19
  • Hmm. Good question. I'm not sure. Its transform "who are coming to Hong Kong every year" doesn't sound very natural to me But I don't think it contrasts in the same way with "There are millions of visitors who come to Hong Kong every year" because that most obviously means that each of those visitors comes every year", which is a very different claim. – Colin Fine Oct 1 '19 at 16:30
  • then what about "The people living here are quite nice"? It means "the people who live here" or "the people who are living here"? – Kent Tong Oct 2 '19 at 6:55
  • 1
    Another good point, @KentTong It could be either. (I would say that "the people who are living here" is comparatively unusual, because it implies that they are living here temporarily. But for that meaning, it is perfectly natural). This suggests that my argument in my answer is at least incomplete. (I did say "I think"!) – Colin Fine Oct 2 '19 at 15:19

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