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I am confused about using participles to shorten long sentences.

There's a situation where I tried to study but after an hour I found myself getting nowhere as I didn't even read a single paragraph.

I have two questions here—

  1. Is the sequence of tense correct? (I mean, is the italicized part in correct tense or I should have used 'hadn't even read'?)

  2. I want to shorten the italicized part using participles, but doing so I lose the perfect aspect of the action. Can it be done?

Here's what I have come up with –

I tried to study but after an hour I found myself getting nowhere as not even reading a single paragraph by then.

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  • It's entirely a stylistic choice whether to use Simple Past (with do-support) or Past Perfect in your cited context. But this is irrelevant if you want to "shorten" the text, because didn't even read and hadn't even read are exactly the same number of characters. But arguably in speech, the second (Past Perfect) version is very slightly shorter, because it uses past participle read (pronounced red, which is a "shorter" vowel than the infinitive form pronounced reed as used in the Simple Past do-support version). Nov 8, 2021 at 15:54
  • There was a situation - and the word is paragraph (you would only use para in very informal speech). Nov 8, 2021 at 16:13
  • @ Kate Bunting Thankyou for the correction Can I use 'having read' (I tried to study but after an hour I found myself getting nowhere as not having read a single paragraph by then)
    – RADS
    Nov 8, 2021 at 16:49
  • "didn't even read" sounds like American English and "hadn't even read" sounds like British English. Any AmE speakers care to comment?
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 22, 2022 at 3:46
  • @JavaLatte I am so tired of this. Both are fine. This is simply not an AmE/BrE "thing". It all depends on whether the speaker wants to emphasize one action preceding another or not. I went to the shops and bought nothing by five o'clock. v. I went to the shops and had bougth nothing by five o'clock.
    – Lambie
    Apr 18 at 0:27

2 Answers 2

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Both tenses are correct, but past perfect is preferred.

I tried to study but after an hour I found myself getting nowhere as I hadn't even read a single paragraph.

Here, in the moment you find yourself getting nowhere, it's because you notice "I haven't even read...". If you tell this same story in the future, you shift the present perfect to past perfect, and end up with the sentence above.

I tried to study but after an hour I found myself getting nowhere as I didn't even read a single paragraph.

In this version, you are telling the story about two things that happened in the past, "found myself" and "didn't read", without saying directly which one happened first. It's only from the context that we can infer that "didn't read" happened first. If read naively or by a non-native speaker, this sentence could mean "not reading" happened some other time. Clarity is better.

And yes, the sentence can be shortened with "-ing":

I tried to study, but after an hour I found myself getting nowhere, not having read even a single paragraph.

This version make it clear that "not reading" happened during the hour, so it's equivalent to the version with past perfect.

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I tried to reduce your confusion in sentence reduction using participles. Sorry for long detailed writings.

We will do it in few steps :

Step 1: What is the function /position of the dependent clause in the given sentence ?

  • If it works as Subject or Object or complement or the obj of preposition, no reduction will be possible. If not, we will go to next step.

Example- I do not know who is working behind the scene.

  • here, dependent clause is as object of verb know. So, no reduction.

Step 2:

Is dependent clause (DC) working as adjective or Adverbials ? ( showing manners, time , place, reasons, contract, etc. )

**If DC is adjective - Step 3 **

**If DC is adverbials - Step 4 **

Step 3: Ways to reduce dependent clause when DC is functioning as adj

Condition: Reduction is possible if the syntax of DC is Clause Marker(CM) + Verb.

Example : 1

Rahim, who resides in Dhaka, is my friend.

Example 2:

The blue motorbike, which has been repaired recently, is my favorite one.

Here, the dependent clause is working as adjective.

who/ which- CM and Resides / has been repaired - Verb

So, condition fulfilled.

Firstly, Remove the CM ( here - who and which)

Secondly, remove any auxiliary is available (here - has been)

Thirdly, Is there any verb remained ? if Yes.

  • change that verb as ( v+ing) [ if the dependent clause(dc) was in active voice] - here - residing

  • keep the remained V3( past participle) [ if the dc is in passive voice], here repaired

So the reduced forms with participle -

example : 1(reduced)

Rahim,residing in Dhaka, is my friend.

Example 2:(reduced)

The blue motorbike,repaired recently, is my favorite one.

Step 4: DC is Adverbials

Example 3:

After an hour I found myself getting nowhere as I hadn't even read a single paragraph.

Condition to Reduce the DC Subject of Main clause and Sub of DC are same.

Here, Sub Main clause ( I) = Sub of DC ( I) - condition fulfilled and the DC is a clause showing reasons.

Type 1 : Adverbials showing Reasons

Firstly, Remove the CM and Subject [ here, As and I]

**Secondly, Changing the verb to Gerund form ( V+ing) [here, not having read]

The reduced form is -

Example 3:

After an hour I found myself getting nowhere not having read even a single paragraph.

Type 2 : Adverbials showing Time or Contrast

Example 4: ( Adverbials showing Time)

After he had completed the task, he took some rest.

Firstly, DO NOT REMOVE Clause Marker

Secondly, Remove the Subject of the DC [ here, he]

Thirdly, remove any auxiliary is available* (here - had)

Fourthly, Is there any verb remained ? if Yes.

  • change that verb as ( v+ing) [ if the dependent clause(dc) was in active voice] - **here - completing **

  • keep the remained V3( past participle) [ if the dc is in passive voice], here **not applicable in example 4 *

Example 4: ( Reduced)

After completing the task, he took some rest.

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