This is from an IELTS Reading TEST from BC:

The source of the problem is the Helium Privatisation Act (HPA), an American law passed in 1996 that requires the U.S. National Helium Reserve to liquidate its helium assets by 2015 regardless of the market price. Although intended to settle the original cost of the reserve by a U.S. Congress ignorant of its ramifications, the result of this fire sale is that global helium prices are so artificially deflated that few can be bothered recycling the substance or using it judiciously.

For the second sentence, I don't really understand what the subject for the past participle intended is as I assume this is a passive participle clause (can it be an adjective?). And the phrase "by a U.S. Congress ignorant of its ramifications" really added to the confusion. What is the purpose of the preposition "by" (for the lack of a better explanation for my confusion)?

Thanks for helping, guys!


1 Answer 1


That sentence is natural enough, but if you parse it, it looks like "the result of this fire sale" is the subject of "intended", which obviously makes no sense. The subject of "intended" is actually the sale of the U.S. National Helium Reserve. I can only tell this from context, not from the grammar.

Reworded, it comes out like this:

Congress, which was ignorant of the ramifications of the sale, intended the sale to "settle the original cost of the reserve" (I leave this part in quotes because without more context, I don't know what it means), but it led to depressed global helium prices, with the knock-on effect of a lot of wasted helium.

  • But is this grammatically correct? Although thanks to your reworded version, it was much clearer to me! Which begs the question, why there is no comma between "Congress" and "ignorant" as the relative pronoun "which was" was left out, which makes the phrase "ignorant of its ramifications " an adjective phrase?
    – Như Tùng
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 14:47
  • @NhưTùng The sentence is correct, but a professional editor would probably reword it. The reason there's no comma is because it's "a Congress...", meaning this particular current version of Congress, so it's acceptable to have a defining relative clause there with no comma.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 15:22

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