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I haven't seen a perfect participle in a reduced form (I know some aren't keen on using this) so often (eg: a house having burnt). Is it still okay to use it as in the first sentence below, or does such use of participles cause dangling modifiers? How does the first sentence sound, a bit odd or perfectly normal?

  1. After the house having burnt, he thought he was so lucky to survive.

It wasn't until recently that I realised it is possible to use a gerund after a possessive. If we want to avoid a dangling modifier after the preposition 'after' I guess we should use a noun-like phrase like 'house's having burnt'.

  1. After the house's having burnt, he thought he was so lucky to survive.

How about a third one? I think it is grammatically correct, and one might expect that he burnt the house and felt guilt just after the event. It is highly likely that 'after' is not needed here because without this preposition the meaning stays the same I suppose.

  1. (After) having burnt the house, he felt guilt then and there.

2 Answers 2

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These are three rather different constructions, and different usage patterns (I hesitate to say "rules") apply. I will address them one at a time.

  1. After the house having burnt, he thought he was so lucky to survive.Red X, i9ndicating incorrect form

The phrase "After the house having burnt" is not a natural form, and would not be used by a native or fluent speaker of English. What seems to be the intended meaning is best expressed, in my view, by:

1A) After the house burnt, he thought he was very lucky to have survived. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form

The simple past allows one to discuss events at any time in the past, with no connection to any other event being required. Here the only connection is to the later event of his thought, and so the present perfect form does not work well. "Having burnt" is used to describe a condition continuing up to the present, or a condition the effects of which continue to the present. Thus it does not work well with "after" which places the related event subsequent to the burning.

The form "having burnt" could be used in a sentence such as:

  • The house having burnt, it was no longer safe to occupy. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form
  • Having burnt, the house was was no longer safe to occupy. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form

Also for no reason I can specify, "so" is not used as an emphasizer in the construction "he thought he was so lucky", although "he had been so lucky" is natural. but "very lucky" can be used in all places where "so lucky" can be, and many where it cannot.

The meaning of sentence 1 can also be expressed by:

  • 1B) After the house had burnt, he thought he was very lucky to survive. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form
  • 1C) After the house had burnt, he thought he had been very lucky to survive. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form
  • 1D) After the house had burnt, he thought he was very lucky to have survived. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form

  1. After the house's having burnt, he thought he was so lucky to survive.

While not strictly wrong, the use of the genetive (possessive) in Sentence 2 is at least unusual, and I would avoid it.

The alternate suggested by MarcInManhattan:

2A) After the house's burning, he thought he was lucky to survive.

I like even less. I would prefer to invert this to

2B) After the burning of the house, he thought he was lucky to survive. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form

Or one may use the genitive with a present participle, as:

2C) After the house's burning, he thought he was very lucky to survive. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form

other variations are possible here.


    1. After having burnt the house, he felt guilt then and there. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form
  • 3A) Having burnt the house, he felt guilt then and there. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form
  • 3B) After having burnt the house, he felt guilt. Green Check mark, indicting a correct or acceptable form

Sentence # is grammatical, but seems a little awkward to me. 3A emphasizes the guilt, 3B emphasizes that the guilt came after the burning. 3 tries to do both.

As another answer points out, this meaning can be expressed without using the perfect, but there is nothing wrong in doing so, that is a matter of style.

The irregular past form "burnt" was once the only past participle of "burn" The newer regular form "burned" is now more common, except in fixed phrases such as "burnt food' or "burnt timber". But there is nothing wrong with using "burnt", indeed I have a personal fondness for it and for related forms such as "lent" and "rent" (in the sense of tore, not leased).

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  • I'm a little confused by your endorsement of 2C, since it is practically the same as 2A, which you said you didn't like. Apr 25 at 12:31
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Sentence #1 is not idiomatic because the function of the phrase "having burnt" is unclear. I suppose that the most likely explanation would be that it modifies "house", but then "after" must be a preposition, so you are saying that something is after the house (and not after the burning). That is very likely to confuse the reader, and I'm not sure that it makes sense at all.

Sentence #2 is grammatical, but there is no need for the perfect aspect. This expresses the same idea and is simpler:

After the house's burning, he thought he was lucky to survive.

(I deleted "so" because its meaning is a bit vague.)

Sentence #3 is also grammatical (with or without "after"), but it differs from the first two sentences because "burn" is now a transitive verb. If you include "after", then there is again no need for the perfect aspect:

After burning the house, he felt guilt then and there.

Also, a relatively minor point: When we use the past participle of "burn" as a complement of "to have", "burned" is the usual form. The "burnt" form is more common with expressions such as "burnt toast". (This is a matter of general usage, not a strict rule.)

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