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I learned that present participles can be used to express why something happens, example:

Being a man, I shave everyday.

However, I noticed that in describing physical features it's better to avoid the present participle, example:

A girl, having black hair, passed by me. (wrong)

(Someone has even mentioned it to be grammatical but serious and not colloquial)

[Concerning how "a road having no center line marking", "a woman having no respect for the elders"...etc are valid but not the sentence above, English is really weird :) ]

Anyway, I wonder if this sentence is grammatically correct, even though it's describing physical features, based on my first point.

Having fair skin, I've to stay away from the sun.

This sentence isn't describing physical features but I wonder if it's valid too.

Having illness, I go to the hospital every day.

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You need to distinguish between participle phrases that are free modifiers and participle phrases that are reduced relative clauses which are bound modifiers.

“Being a man, I shave everyday”. - Being a man, is a participle phrase acting as an adverbial free modifier – it modifies the main clause “I shave everyday.” You can also say “I, being a man, shave everyday” and “ I shave everyday - being a man,”.

“Being a man” is not a reduced relative clause.

The man wearing a hat is my uncle. Wearing a hat is also a participle phrase but it is adjectival and is bound to “the man.”

The subject in the sentence is {The man wearing a hat}. Wearing a hat is a reduced relative clause: we can expand it to “The man that/who is wearing a hat is my uncle.”

You will see that we cannot add that/who is to “Being a man, I shave everyday”

However, I noticed that in describing physical features it's better to avoid the present participle, example: A girl, having black hair, passed by me. (wrong)

This is wrong because (i) the girl’s having black hair does not explain why she “passed me by”; (ii) nor does “having black hair” mean “with black hair"; (iii) nor can we say “The girl who is having black hair passed me by.” (To have in this sense is stative and does not appear in the continuous form.)

But “A girl walking quickly passed by me.” = “A girl that was walking quickly passed by me.” The reader can now see why the girl passed you.

Now we come to the next part: Defining relative clauses and descriptive relative clauses:

Defining relative clauses are essential to understand the sentence:

“Here are my six cats. The cat climbing the tree is called Oscar.” = “The cat that is climbing the tree is called Oscar.” The clause has told you exactly which cat is being referred to. It defines that cat, and no other cat. NB there are no commas!

But

Descriptive relative clauses are not essential to understand the sentence:

“Here are my six cats. The cats, enjoying the luxury, all live here.” = The cats, which enjoy the luxury, all live here.” NB There are commas! The information is really “The cats all live here.” The fact that they are enjoying luxury does not make a difference to their living at that place. – the clause is descriptive.

This sentence isn't describing physical features but I wonder if it's valid too.

Physical features are not common reduced relative clauses because usually we have physical features and, as I have said, “who/that/which is having” is not possible.

(But; "The man [that is] growing a beard is my uncle." (correct))

“Having illness, I go to the hospital every day.”

It is wrong because “having illness” is not idiomatic. We say “Being ill”. “Being ill” is the reason “I go to hospital”

Being ill is not a reduced relative clause: it is an adverbial free modifier.

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  • 1
    Note that it would be possible to say "having cancer" (or any other specific illness) - though "because I have cancer" would probably be more usual. Sep 2 at 20:38
  • @KateBunting Yes, this is a non-stative use of "having" = suffering from; experiencing.
    – Greybeard
    Sep 2 at 20:48
  • So is "Having red hair, I have to stay away from the sun." Correct cause "having red hair" is a free modifier?
    – Manar
    Sep 3 at 10:26
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Having fair skin, I've to stay away from the sun.

You can say "I've got to go", but you can't say "I've to go" or "I've to find my book" You just can't use the contraction in that context. You have to say "I have to stay away from the sun". (It also tends to be pronounced more like "haf" in this context; pronouncing the v sound will sound pretentious in many dialects) You can use the contraction if the 'have' is an auxiliary verb helping to make a past tense "I've left a list on the table", or "I've never had the flu before".

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  • "I've to go" is correct in British English. In American English, as you mentioned, it's considered wrong.
    – Manar
    Sep 3 at 10:32
  • but you can't say "I've to go" or "I've to find my book" This is too much of a generalisation. It is certainly not standard but is heard where "I have to go" = I am externally compelled to go, and "I've to go" is less emphatic and the compulsion is more internal.
    – Greybeard
    Sep 3 at 10:38

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