I was curious to know what kind of reduction has used for the word "preferring" in the following sentence.

I think punctuation is not correct. I guess it originally had been ", because they(students) prefer...". in which case it does not require a comma.

This questionable answer claims that electronic devices can be addictive. One consequence of this is school children might not be able to do their homework, preferring to socialize online...

  • Syntactically, your adverbial clause (preferring to socialize online) is no different to, for example, He could not answer, being ignorant. Such clauses can often be relocated to different positions within an utterance (yours, for example, could be moved to before or after school children). But note that although normally they're set off with commas, that doesn't really reflect a "grammatical rule" as such. If it's possible to speak the utterance without pauses you don't need commas (I personally could accept He being ignorant couldn't answer with neither; YMMV). Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 17:32
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    There's no reduction. The non-finite clause "preferring to socialize online" is a gerund-participial clause functioning as a supplementary adjunct. Such supplements are normally set apart by a comma in writing and a slight pause in speech.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


"One consequence of this is [that] school children, who prefer to socialize online, might not be able to do their homework." , The punctuation of the sentence you quoted is correct, and it's a clearer way to express the idea than the unreduced version because of the continuing nature of the "preferring", and because the important fact of missing homework is presented first, and the explanation second.

  • Thank you @jack-oflaherty. Does this means we can move relative clause to other place in the sentence? if yes, would you mind giving me a reference or something because I have never this before
    – en glish
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 17:30
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    Per my comment above, you could move your adverbial clause to before or after school children, but you can't move it all the way to before One consequence of this, because that's too far away from the target noun associated with the clause. Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 17:35
  • En glish, yes, we can move it, as long as it doesn't make things hard to read. I don't have a reference at hand to offer you. Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 18:17

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