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I'd like to ask if "to be" is a must in the sentences below:

[1] She was the first female to be employed.

[2] She was the first female employed.

[3] I am the first person given the opportunity to go overseas.

[4] I am the first person to be given the opportunity to go overseas.

In the first two sentences, I reduced "who was" and in the second two, I omitted "who is".

Thanks

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  • There's nothing 'reduced' in any of your examples In [1] The sequence "to be employed" is an infinitival relative clause (modifying "first female"), not some reduced clause. In [4] the sequence "to be given the opportunity to go overseas" is again an infinitival relative clause, here modifying "first person". In [2] and [3] the head is modified by a participial clause, not some 'reduced relative clause.
    – BillJ
    Dec 5 '21 at 10:31
  • " In [2] and [3] the head is modified by a participial clause" -- 1)what do you imply by the 'head', and 2) which parts are the participial clauses in 2 and 3?
    – Airforce
    Dec 5 '21 at 10:51
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[1] She was the first female [to be employed].

[2] She was the first female [employed].

[3] I am the first person [given the opportunity to go overseas].

[4] I am the first person [to be given the opportunity to go overseas].

There's nothing 'reduced' in any of these examples.

In [1] the sequence "to be employed" is an infinitival relative clause (modifying "first female").

In [4] the sequence "to be given the opportunity to go overseas" is again an infinitival relative clause, here modifying "first person".

In [2] and [3] the head noun is modified by a participial clause, not some 'reduced' relative clause, although they are semantically similar.

Note that we do not analyse the bracketed clauses in [2] and [3] as relative clauses since there is no possibility of them containing a relative phrase (cf. *"She was the first female who employed.") / *"I am the first person who given the opportunity to go overseas".

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  • Could you please explain more about the participial clause in [2]? How did the rule of the participial clause apply in the sentence "She was the first female employed."?
    – KH-vn
    Dec 6 '21 at 2:13
  • @KH-vn "Employed" is a verb heading a passive past-participial clause modifying "first female". It could be expanded to, for example, "She was the first female [employed by the new manager]. It's the semantic equivalent of "She was the first female [who was employed by the new manager]".
    – BillJ
    Dec 6 '21 at 12:03
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The two examples you give are both grammatical and idiomatic.

It is perfectly normal to leave out the "who was", "who is" and/or "to be". However the general rule about elision applies. If it creates a lack of clarity or an ambiguity it is important to include the words otherwise left out.

In your examples, no lack of clarity is apparent.

However, if I say "She was the third person running". It could mean she was the third person in succession who had done something (a well-used idiom) - or it could mean she was the first person (to be) running.

So in this instance it would not be wise to leave out the "to be".

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  • There's no 'elision', but just a different kind of clause. In [2] and [3] the head noun is modified by a participial clause, not some 'reduced' relative clause.
    – BillJ
    Dec 5 '21 at 10:43
  • @BillJ You may be right but I think you are splitting hairs somewhat. (Is "person...to be employed" also not a noun modified by a participila clause?) On this site one has to ask oneself if the questioner is wanting to understand the finer points of linguistic theory, or whether they are just trying to learn English. My impression is that this questioner falls in the latter category. A debate over whether it is an elision or a "head noun modified by a participial clause" is perhaps better conducted on the ELU site. This one is for "learners".
    – WS2
    Dec 5 '21 at 10:52
  • A modifier of "person", but an infinitival relative clause, not a participial one. At this level of grammar, I don't see anything to be gained by telling learners one thing and then later telling them something else as they become more competent. In any case, I don't see anything difficult about grasping the fact that in general words can be modified by a wide range of expressions including non-finite clauses, the latter consisting of infinitivals and participials.
    – BillJ
    Dec 5 '21 at 12:33
  • @BillJ All I can say is that I have been speaking and writing perfectly fluent and comprehensible English for well over 70 years without being aware of the subtle distinction between a "participle clause" and a "reduced relative clause". You are the first to have highlighted this deficiency. Shame be upon me!
    – WS2
    Dec 5 '21 at 14:13

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