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With regards to reducing relative clauses to participle constructions, it seems that sometimes we are able to add -ing to verbs that normally cannot take the progressive tense.

John, standing 4 foot 5, is hardly your man.

He built a room measuring 12 by 12 feet.

Other times we can't:

The girl liking John isn't to be trusted.

What are the rules on this or where can I find them? If there are any.

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    Who says you can't say or write 'The girl liking John isn't to be trusted'? Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 8:29
  • Would have thought it sounded off to any native speaker's ears. I guess I could be wrong.
    – Brooh
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 9:07
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    It's because of the semantic properties here of the verb "liking".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 10:31
  • I think there may be more than one syntactic construction involved here. John, standing 4ft 5, is hardly your man doesn't make sense without the commas / pauses setting off the parenthetical element (because it's not a restrictive clause). But That man standing 4ft 5 is hardly your man is at least "credible", and The girl watching him is stupid is fine - except it only really works as a restrictive clause (without pauses / commas). Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 11:50

1 Answer 1

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You can reduce relative clauses:

  • a room which measures 12 by 12 feet = a room measuring 12 by 12 feet
  • the girl who likes John = the girl liking John

It doesn't work when who/that/which is an object:

  • the books which I read != the books reading (Grammatically "the books reading" is fine but the meaning is different)

Maybe someone will correct me but I think it doesn't work when we use commas (non-defining relative clauses):

  • We will raise £10,000 for local charities, which help the homeless. != ... local charities helping the homeless (Grammatically "local charities helping" is fine but the meaning is different
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    I think you're right about not being able to do it for non-defining relative clauses. I'm not quite in agreement that "The girl liking John isn't to be trusted" is acceptable.
    – Brooh
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 9:12
  • According to ngram it is becoming more and more common: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Kyamond
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 9:18
  • Hmm, that's interesting.
    – Brooh
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 9:47
  • Why downvote? Is anything wrong here?
    – Kyamond
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:47
  • @Kjaamond Your Ngram search doesn't capture "liking" being used in reduced relative clauses: "...she has never seen a girl liking another girl...", "That's fine if what's growing is good -- a girl liking a boy, a boy liking a girl", "Was she jealous? No. Just no. Not of this girl liking Brayden". I didn't find a single one on the first page of hits. "The girl liking John" isn't correct.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 21:45

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