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  1. He left the unfinished work.

  2. He left the work unfinished.

Other examples can be(in present participle)

  1. He left the crying child.

  2. He left the child crying.

What is the difference between 1 and 2 and between 3 and 4?

Participles can be both pre- modifiers and post-modifiers. But do they change the meaning when they come in different position.

What I think the difference is where the speaker want to emphasize. In the first and third sentence his emphasis is on 'Work' and 'Child' and in the second and fourth his emphasis is on 'Unfinished' and 'Crying'.

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Examples 1 and 3 just have a literal meaning with no nuance: the work was unfinished/the child was crying and then he left.

Examples 2 and 4 suggest he has some responsibility. Example 2 sounds like he was supposed to complete the work, but chose to walk away. Example 4 could mean he was supposed to soothe the child, but walked away instead. Example 4 could also mean he caused the child to cry and walked away.

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