My friend and I have recently got a lingering debate on defining the subject of a contracted clause below:

The Department of Culture and Sports called on male civil servants at the department to wear the five-piece long dress when going to work on the first day of each week.

I think it's a complex sentence, of which the dependent clause, when going to work on the first day of each week is an elliptical one. Per grammar rules, the hidden subject of this contracted clause must be the same as the the subject of the independent clause, that is, The Department of Culture and Sports.

However, my friend thought the subject of this clause is male civil servants

So which one is the real subject of this clause? and is there any misplaced modifier here?

  • 1
    Like most non-finite clause "When going to work on the first day of each week" has no overt subject, but we understand it to be "male civil servants at the department". I don't think there's any risk of someone taking "The Department of Culture and Sports" to be the subject. – BillJ Sep 16 '20 at 6:37
  • I know quite well that the writer implies "male civil servants" as subject of "going to work..". But if I modify the sentence like the following: - "The boss called on male civil sevants to help their wives and children when doing housework". In strict grammar sense, who is the legitimate subject of " doing housework"? The boss, male civil servants, wives or children? How do we define the hidden subject? And is there any rule about it? – Tuan Nguyen Sep 16 '20 at 7:08
  • If you already knew "quite well" what the subject is, why did you ask? There's a great deal of information about this topic on the 'Net. What research have you done? – BillJ Sep 16 '20 at 7:17
  • I'm asking for help because I consider this contracted clause as a dangler and should be rephrased while my friends think it correct and standard. I did tons of research on this topic and all the results return me the same rule of specifying the subject of a contracted clause (WHEN-clause) that takes the subject of the other clause. EX: The doctor told me to wear a hat when going out in the sun. As such, grammatically, the causer of "going out" must be "the doctor", not "me". But some vehemently disagree, although they didn't cite any authoritative sources to back their points. – Tuan Nguyen Sep 16 '20 at 7:59

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