No one can walk the wire without a bit of fear unless trained very young.

No one can walk the wire without a bit of fear unless having been trained very young.

Both "having been done" and "done" can indicate passivity and completion of an action, so why is the former one correct?

3 Answers 3


The first sentence simply omits the verb to be because the meaning is clear without it. You could say "unless they were trained very young".

Personally, I think "unless they have been trained very young" sounds better than "unless having been".

  • 1
    Omit to be?Do you mean that the original sentence is "... unless to be trained"? I think "to be" indicates future.
    – 庄怀玉
    May 24, 2023 at 4:27
  • No, I said 'the verb to be', not 'the words to be'. They were is the past tense of to be. May 24, 2023 at 7:46
  • Thank you! It is a brand-new idea to me. haha
    – 庄怀玉
    May 24, 2023 at 9:21
  • @庄怀玉: I don't agree with this answer for the same reason as for gotube's answer, but this answer is not as bad. Unlike the other answer, this one does not claim that the grammatical function of "unless" makes only the second sentence wrong. The error in this answer is that it failed to consider the temporal relation between the participle and the noun that it modifies. Please see my answer for the correct analysis.
    – user21820
    May 24, 2023 at 10:17
  • I am sorry but I can't find your answer below. Besides, can anyone tell me how to @ people...
    – 庄怀玉
    May 25, 2023 at 12:41

The word "unless" is a conjunction that joins two clauses together. The phrase "having been trained very young" isn't a clause, so it cannot come after "unless", so the second sentence is ungrammatical.

The first sentence is correct because the word "trained" in that context is understood to be a reduced form of "they were trained", which is a clause, so it can follow "unless".

If you want to use "having been trained", "having" is a gerund, which is a noun, so you need a preposition in the place of "unless". "Without" is a preposition with roughly the same meaning:

No one can walk the wire without a bit of fear without having been trained very young.

Repeating "without" twice in the same sentence is poor style, but the grammar and meaning are good.

  • When he was looking for a job, he run into an old classmate. This sentence can be changed into "when looking for a job, ..."
    – 庄怀玉
    May 24, 2023 at 4:24
  • If the sentence is "... unless they have been trained", why can't it be written as "unless having been trained"
    – 庄怀玉
    May 24, 2023 at 4:25
  • You are wrong. The second sentence is correct, while the first is incorrect!
    – user21820
    May 24, 2023 at 9:27
  • @user21820 Can you explain why you think so?
    – gotube
    May 24, 2023 at 22:17
  • @庄怀玉 Those reduced forms mostly work when the elided verb is a "be" verb, like "was" in your example. It usually `doesn't work with other verbs like "have".
    – gotube
    May 24, 2023 at 22:23

Apart from the present perfect "have/has done", constructions with a form of have followed by a past participle are always looking back on an event from some later point of time.

If there is no particular later time to focus on, there is no point in using such constructions - and in fact English speakers often do not bother to use them when they could, if the temporal relationships are clear without.

So in your example, there is no time in the past (later than the training) from which the training is being viewed, so using the "having been trained" construction is unnecessary and awkward.

A context in which you might use such a construction is Having been trained very young to walk the wire, I felt little fear when I did so. The viewpoint is the time when I did walk the wire, and the training is being viewed from that time.

  • Thank you!I think the action of being trained should precede the action of walking the wire. According to your answer, there is no particular time, so I should use the more simple -ed.
    – 庄怀玉
    May 24, 2023 at 4:38
  • While it is true that many native speakers drop words from the standard grammatical structures, (1) just sounds wrong to anyone who is used to speaking perfect English. I have attempted to explain why in my post. Ironically, your last paragraph supports my analysis, because it would be completely wrong to say "Trained very young to walk the wire, I felt little fear when I did so.".
    – user21820
    May 24, 2023 at 10:11

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