a- I gave a book, which was written by Hemingway, to Mary last week.

b- I gave a book, written by Hemingway, to Mary last week.

As far as I know I can reduce the sentence a to b. But here the website says I can't because the fact that "the relative clause "which was written by Hemingway" modifies an object of the verb give." But for me, it is clear that the relative clause modifies the noun which is next to it.

  • Why are you making these non-restrictive clauses? There are no commas here. And don't believe what websites say about English grammar. Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 17:32
  • @JohnLawler I came across this website today and just wanted to make sure, that's all. I am also nitpicking about some grammar rules. Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 18:04
  • 2
    That article is wrong. "I gave Mary a book written by Hemingway last week" (without the commas) is perfect.
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 19:21
  • 1
    That website is wrong. Objects of verbs may by modified by a reduced relative clause, as explained here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduced_relative_clause. Such a clause is called a "reduced object relative passive clause." It's been given its own name because in can sometimes lead to ambiguity or what's a called a "garden path effect," which is when one starts interpreting the sentence one way and then must go back and reinterpret it another way because it no longer makes sense the way it was being interpreted. Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


I don't think the author of the article has chosen a good example. It is possible to re-write the given sentence with a parenthetical phrase ", written by Hemmingway,"

I think the article is confusing a separate fact, relative pronouns that are the subject of their clauses can't be omitted. A relative pronoun can be the subject or the object in the relative clause. If the pronoun "that" is the object of the relative cause, the pronoun can be omitted:

A book that I read = A book I read.

But if the pronoun is the subject, then it can't be omitted.

A person that reads a book. (not the same as "A person reads a book")

The difference is that in the first sentence, "that=book" is object of the verb "read", in the second sentence "that=person" is the subject of the verb.

It may be that the article is saying that you can't reduce the relative clause to a participle:

I gave a written by Hemmingway book to Mary last week.

In that, the article is generally correct. That is not a good sentence.

  • Thank you. So, I want to ask you again to be make sure. Is the sentence b grammatically correct as is? Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 16:41
  • 1
    I believe it is grammatically correct. I imagine the author of this lesson was getting his rules mixed up.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 19:22

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