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Admittedly, there are a few questions similar to this, but I find that the examples are usually compromised by other errors.

In these two examples (below), which use participle clauses as supplements, which construction is more appropriate? The one that uses 'having been released' (the perfect participle) or the one that uses 'released' by itself? They are both passive constructions that refer to a release that happened before the present state of 'is one of the highest-grossing films of all time.'

[1] Released in 2009, James Cameron's Avatar is one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

[2] Having been released in 2009, James Cameron's Avatar is one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

I know there is a tendency to avoid the perfect aspect when the temporal relation is clear, so I imagine these are both equally acceptable, with Example 1 perhaps more likely to occur.

If an answer can provide other similar examples and some theoretical framework to explain this, that would be very helpful.

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    ...such as Having been brought up by parents who were both teachers, John learned to read at an early age. If Avatar had been released 100 years ago, that might feasibly make sense on the grounds that having been released so long ago, there would have been more time for it to have earned more money. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 18:41
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    Fronted or not, the implication of [something] having been [verbed] is usually because [something] [was verbed]. But that implication doesn't suit the cited context, which is why it's non-idiomatic. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 19:19
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    MJ Ada: I think you're just posing awkward permutations for the sake of it. Bottom line, having [been, done, undergone,... X] normally implies a "cause-and-effect" relationship between the actual main assertion (John learned to read early) and the antecedent (being raised by teachers). Your example was already highly suspect with is, and changing it to was just makes it worse. There's nothing to be learned from such random word shuffling. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 22:45
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    I think it's important to note that there's only a tendency for the having been X'ed construction to imply a causal relationship between the past action/attribute it refers to, and the main statement in the containing utterance. You can adjust other aspects of the utterance (syntactically or semantically*) in ways that make that relationship less likely in that specific utterance. This doesn't affect the fact of there being a tendency for things to be otherwise. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 12:14
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    @FumbleFingers You are not supposed to answer in comments yet you persist. Frankly, it's really not fair to the rest of us.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:22

3 Answers 3

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You don't need the "having been" in the Avatar movie sample sentence.
Other examples:
Painted in purple and blue, the room now looked very merry.
Decried by some and praised by others, the author did not look like a happy man.
OR
The room, painted in purple and blue, now looked very merry.
The author, decried by some and praised by others, did not look like a happy man.

Would there be any reason for using "having been painted"? It just sounds really old fashioned. A past participle phrase can be prepositioned to the noun without using a past tense when it modifies the noun. And then, it's just an adjectival modifier phrase.

By the way, no good editor would allow: having been released in the sample sentence as it is just dead linguistic wood, so to speak.

Released in 2009, Avatar by James Cameron is one of the highest grossing films of all time [in front]

The phrase needs to be next to the noun it modifies, in my opinion.

Also, this same sentence could be written thus:

James Cameron's Avatar, released in 2009, is one of the highest grossing films of all time. I'm calling it an adjectival phrase.

The perfect participle construction (having been released) is not required with an active verbs such as release a film when the verb modifies a noun.

There are times, though, that the perfect participle is needed, as with copular verbs (be, seem, etc.):

Having been very rich, he now had to live on a paltry monthly stipend.

Because one doesn't say: Been rich, he now had to live etc.

Also, with certain expressions: having been made to look the fool.

Having been made to look the fool, John then proceeded to trip down the aisle and fall flat on his face.

That initial phrase can also go after John.

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    I don't find either of your having X'ed examples particularly natural, because neither of them contain any element of cause and effect - they're just using the perfect continuous to sequentially report one thing as having happened before the other.. Not really the same as the more common "consequential" usage: Having wasted his family inheritance, he now had to live on a pittance. Having had too much to drink, John tripped and fell. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 23:00
  • @FumbleFingers I did not say having X'ed. I said: Having been + state. Having been rich, having been sick. But my main argument was about the film's release. I did not explain every single possibility apart from that.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:12
  • But it's irrelevant whether the fronted adverbial is having X'ed or having been X'ed so far as the "consequential" implication is concerned. Having been sick, John didn't come to my party is fine, but Having been sick, John lives in London is weird. But WITHOUT fronting / continuous, John, who has been sick, didn't come to my party and John, who has been living in London, didn't come to my party are both fine. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:24
  • @FumbleFingers I feel like you wrecked my answer by ignoring what I actually say and drowing it in comments about a seperate issue.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:38
  • I don't get you. The entire question is about the difference between including the TWO words Having been at the start of the cited text. Your answer doesn't seem to address that - or if it does, it certainly doesn't include what I think is the most important factor concerning the difference (that the extra words imply a "consequential" rather than just a "temporal" relationship). Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 15:01
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The Perfect aspect (particularly as Having been X'ed, and even more particularly when "fronted") normally implies a causal relationship, not just a temporal one. One thing followed the other as a consequence; it didn't just occur later in time. For example...

3a: Having eaten nothing for days, he was starving

...makes sense, but although it's perfectly grammatical...

3b: Having taken off his shirt, he was starving

...doesn't make sense unless we're in some really strange context where taking off one's shirt has some kind of close connection to eating.

IMHO, OP's example 2 is like my example 3b - it's weird.

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  • "having been released" for the film one is not necessary.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:13
  • I would say having been is much worse than "not necessary" - it's positively non-idiomatic in the exact cited context. But there's nothing remotely odd about released in 2009 - it's a potentially interesting bit of ancillary / parenthetical information, presented in a way that doesn't invite us to draw a causal connection. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:30
  • You fail to point out that verbs with direct objects like "the film was released in 2009" IX released the film in 2--9) though passive can always become adjectival.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 14:35
  • @FumbleFingers To expand on your answer, as I feel it addresses (helpfully, I should add) one half of the issue (that is, the correct use of the 'having' construction), could you perhaps explain how the past-participle clause functions temporally? My confusion stems more from the belief that past-participle clauses as supplements should coincide with (or be very close to) the action of the main clause. For example, 'Distracted by the crowd, the goalkeeper failed to notice the ball flying into the net.' Here we can safely say that the goalkeeper is being distracted as the goal is being scored.
    – MJ Ada
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 15:01
  • MJAda: Forget about the "temporal" connection. In your goalkeeper example, native speakers wouldn't really know or care whether the distraction started (and perhaps even ended) before the shot, or only started as the goal was being scored. It's not relevant - all that matters is we understand he didn't save the shot because of distraction from the crowd. The precise timing of the two elements relative to each other only interests learners who haven't yet understood that it's irrelevant, not native speakers. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 15:07
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Note: Having researched this topic in detail, I am posting an answer that I feel best addresses my question.

In short, the perfect participle is not always required to indicate that the content of the passive participle clause happened before the time of the main clause. Past participle clauses that are already perfective (depicting a completed event), like 'Released in 2009,' are appropriate.

Additionally, 'having been' usually implies a cause-and-effect relationship between the supplement and the main clause, so it should be used to this effect.

Below is some supporting information:

A Past Passive Participle Puzzle

This text by Tim Stowell gives a detailed (though not yet complete) account of the temporality of past passive participles. He talks about two types of past passive participle: stative (expressing a state/condition) and eventive (expressing an action).

In standard passive constructions, the passive participle is temporally neutral, but in a variety of other contexts, it appears to express past-shifting, just like the past participle in the perfect construction does.

Stative

Stative past passive participles are said to be ‘intrinsically imperfective.’

Imperfective predicates ... do not introduce new times, and they must typically be anaphorically linked to times that are independently expressed or implied in the surrounding discourse.

They happen simultaneously to the matrix clause (the clause in which a subordinate clause is contained) unless overridden by the insertion of a definite article, such as ‘the’ (shown in [2a]) or an independent time reference, such as ‘previously’ or ‘once’ (shown in [3a]).

See examples of statives below:

[1a] We visited a natural arch admired by geologists worldwide. (simultaneous)

[2a] The cat burglar disliked by the police is drinking a cup of tea. (simultaneous or non-simultaneous)

[3a] We visited a natural arch once admired by geologists worldwide. (non-simultaneous)

Eventive

Episodic eventive past passive participles are said to be ‘intrinsically perfective.’

[Perfective predicates] typically introduce new time points, and they resist being anaphorically bound by other time-denoting expressions.

Eventives strongly favour an ‘independent tense interpretation,’ which often leads to their taking place before the time of the matrix clause. However, there are some cases where the time of the eventive can be simultaneous with the matrix clause, such as in [4a]. The participle clause and the main clause in [4a] are said to ‘accidentally coincide’ because of ‘the independent past-shifted interpretation combined with past tense in the main clause.’

The fact that eventives can be simultaneous under the correct circumstances leads to another point: ‘habitual [eventives] behave like statives.’ They are imperfective—that is, they don’t convey a completed action.

… the habitual/dispositional modality can combine with a perfective predicate to make it imperfective.

In the context of the past and future, eventive verbs can be either episodic or habitual, but when the present tense locates an eventuality at speech time, eventive verbs are usually interpreted as habitual—for example, ‘Cigarettes are smoked by women.’ Not all present-tense eventive verbs follow this interpretation, however: when used in a context that doesn’t express simultaneity with speech time (like a book or a newspaper), they can be interpreted as episodic, such as in ‘A cigarette is smoked by Zeina.’

See examples of eventives below:

[4a] Hired by Grandma to manage the apartment building, George was raised in an immigrant family in Boston. (non-simultaneous)

[5a] Attacked by the Ukrainian resistance, the Russian army units were strung out along a highway, waiting to refuel. (simultaneous or non-simultaneous)

Speech Time and Given Time

The temporality of a past passive participle can be inferred from the time of the matrix clause or the speech time. Participles containing eventives ‘favour independent tense interpretations,’ while statives have a ‘need to be anaphorically linked to an independently given time’ (the time of the matrix clause).

[4a] shows an overt example of an interpretation from the perspective of speech time (that is, the present), with ‘Hired by Grandma to manage the apartment building’ strongly implied to take place after ‘George was raised in an immigrant family in Boston.’

Alternate Interpretations of the Eventive

It should be mentioned that despite the eventive strongly favouring an independent tense interpretation, Stowell evidences that on some occasions, the interpretation ‘tolerates [shifting] relative to the matrix event time.’

Concerning indirect reported speech, he talks about de re (‘a description contributed by the speaker’) and de dicto (a description ‘attributed to the attitude holder’). He says that ‘an independent tense interpretation … is possible only if the finite or reduced relative clause is understood de re’ and that ‘if the relative clause has a de dicto interpretation … the eventuality time of the relative clause must precede the time of the [report].’

Consider the following examples of eventives:

[6a] Mario told us that George, ordered by grandma to lower our rent, wanted to evict us. (non-simultaneous)

[7a] We will be asleep in a hotel struck by lightning. (simultaneous or non-simultaneous)

In [6a], the order can be located after the time of the report if it is perceived as coming from the speaker, but in the de dicto interpretation, ‘Grandma’s order to lower the rent must occur prior to Mario telling us about George’s desire to evict us.’

As regards [7a], Stowell says, ‘It clearly allows both types of past-shifted interpretation (relative to speech time or main clause eventuality time).’ He also says that ‘it probably also allows a simultaneous interpretation synonymous with [“We will be asleep in a hotel that is struck by lightning”],’ which is said to ‘have an interpretation directly analogous to [some] reduced when-clauses.’ Stockwell does mention, however, that the simultaneous interpretation ‘seems less natural.’

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language

Here is some supporting information from The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston and Pullum, taken from Chapter 14, 9 (Non-finite Clauses as Modifiers and Supplements, pp.1264–1266).

First, an example similar to Example 1:

[8a] Born in Aberdeen, Sue had never been further south than Edinburgh.

Next, a short extract talking about how participle clauses such as these relate to the main clause (I have made the terminology easier to understand for those who aren't familiar with certain grammatical terms):

In [these types of participle clauses], there [is not] any explicit indication of the semantic relation between the [participle clause] and the [main clause]. This has to be inferred from the content of the clauses and/or the context.

The passage continues to talk about how the interpretation of the participle clause could be temporal, causal, and so on. This ties into what some of the answers discuss—that is, the cause-and-effect inference of the perfect participle.

There is no mention here of the participle clause always having to exist temporally alongside its anchor (the main clause) when not in the form of a perfect participle. In fact, the example I have selected proves that it doesn't in this case; unless the sentence is saying that Sue had just been born and had never gone beyond Edinburgh as a newborn (an unlikely reading), we can surmise that Sue is probably not a baby anymore at the time of the main clause and that 'born in Aberdeen' is merely supplementary information providing context as to why she hadn't gone further than Edinburgh.

The interpretation is identical to the below (my example):

[9a] Sue, who had been born in Aberdeen, had never been further south than Edinburgh.

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language

Here is some supporting information from A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk et al., taken from 14.8 (p.995).

They say the following about non-finite clauses:

We recover meanings associated with tense, aspect, and mood from the [context of the sentence].

Here are some given examples of recovered meaning:

[10a] (Since/Because/As they were) considered works of art, they were admitted into the country without customs duties.

[11a] (If it is) kept in the refrigerator, the drug should remain effective for at least three months.

[12a] (Since/After he was) allowed unusual privileges, the prisoner seemed to enjoy his captivity.

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  • Considering that I wrote the question and have answered it exactly as I hoped it would be answered, I can only assume that the downvote is a result of someone disliking the fact that I changed the accepted answer to my own or fundamentally disagreeing with the content of the answer, all of which has been informed by expert sources. If it is the former, it should be mentioned that I changed the accepted answer so that it included all of the information requested in the question, not because I disliked or necessarily disagreed with the previous answers.
    – MJ Ada
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 17:08
  • " the perfect participle is not always required to indicate that the content of the passive participle clause happened before the time of the main clause". I fail to see why you think this is important. How is "released in 2009" or "having been released in 2009" in front of or after Avatar a clause?? I dispute that.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 17:19
  • This is a common point of contention. Using the view of traditional grammar, we would call them 'participle phrases,' so I can understand why you would see it as unimportant. If that is where your disagreement stems from, we're likely not going to agree on the answer to this question. My understanding is based on knowledge of participle clauses being clauses, not phrases. If you wish to know my viewpoint, I'd recommend reading the texts I referenced.
    – MJ Ada
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 18:11
  • @MJAda: It's a bit long, but I've waded through it all, and can't see anything to disagree with. And pretty much by definition, unless there's anything demonstrably untrue (that I've missed), if you wrote this answer for yourself, it must be a good answer (for you, at least! :) And I'm not actually a learner myself, so I can't easily guess whether another learner asking about the same thing would find this exactly hits the spot. But my default assumption has to be that what suits one should suit another (even if not always), so +1 Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 15:37
  • Thank you! I created a document for myself that contains the same information, so I figured I'd add it all to my answer so that everyone else had access to it without having to read 27 pages of text. I'm not a learner in the traditional sense (I can speak English fluently), so hopefully this is appropriate for someone less versed in the terminology. I've tried to simplify where I can, and I think the opening summarises the point so learners don't need to go trawling through all the details.
    – MJ Ada
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 18:53

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