The woman who was arrested denies all charges.

Can 'who was' be omitted from this sentence?


2 Answers 2


I found the following sentences on the Internet:

The man arrested by the police on suspicion of theft had stolen a pen from a professor's house.

The man arrested by the police, whose identity is not yet known at this stage, is 50 years old.

Mr. Alba, the man arrested by the police yesterday, works at Lincoln Hospital.

In all of the above sentences, "who was" has been omitted. Therefore, I'd say yes, you can omit "who was".

  • 1
    You have missed the important part of your examples, which is the phrase by the police. Its addition changes everything. Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 15:10
  • @Jeffrey Carney Hi. Thank you. No, I was aware of that; however, the main point here is that they're both passive sentences, although, admittedly, the sentences read much better with the addition of "by the police" and personally, I would never say "The woman arrested ...." without it. Not everything that is grammatical sounds good. Technically, "who was" can be omitted in the OP's sentence, but it is not recommended. Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 15:36
  • That should be part of your answer. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 3:09

[1] The woman [who was arrested] denies all charges.

[2] The woman [arrested] denies all charges.

Both examples are grammatically fine and semantically similar.

In both cases, the bracketed clause is a modifier in noun phrase structure. The major difference is that in [1] the modifier is a relative clause, while in [2] it's a past-participial clause.

The past-participial clause in [2] is a 'bare passive', as evident from the admissibility of a by phrase in internalised complement function (cf. The woman arrested by police ...).

Note that some people call the past-participial clause in [2] a reduced relative clause, but that analysis is best avoided since there is no possibility of it containing a relative phrase (cf. the ungrammatical *The woman who arrested denies all charges).

  • It makes me a little uncomfortable as an AmE speaker to see a bare "woman arrested", although I don't deny it is grammatical. I'd rather see "woman arrested last night/by LAPD/for loitering" or "Woman under arrest denies...".
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 12:23
  • @ColleenV I'd agree that there are some uncomfortable examples, though I find 'the woman arrested' not to be one of them. ?'The man rung left quickly for the border.' Padding helps: 'The man rung by the police left quickly for the border.' Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 16:12
  • What does "uncomfortable" have to do with the price of fish? The OP's question was about grammar, pure and simple, not semantics or pragmatics or anything else.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 16:28
  • @BillJ It's not clear to me that the OP is only asking about grammaticality. They ask whether those words can be omitted, and that's all. This certainly implies grammaticality, but could also include semantics or pragmatics. An answer about the grammar aspect is great, but it's worth letting a learner know that it sounds weird too.
    – gotube
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 22:43
  • I'm aware of what the OP asked. I also said that both versions were semantically similar. In an appropriate discourse, it may not sound "weird".
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 6:41

You must log in to answer this question.