The AOA recommends washing glasses everyday, paying special attention to the frames and earpieces, where hair product and makeup tend to rub off.

In the sentence above, I cannot figure out whether paying special attention to..blablabla denotes an adjective or something I don't know?

Although I am of the opinion that the phrase I mentioned above functions as an adjective modifying the only object (AOA). But if so,what does this sentence actually mean?..you know,there is something attributive clause standing after the middle phrase puzzling me.

  • What's with the heart emojis? What function are they serving in your question?
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 14, 2015 at 11:32
  • 2
    You can make your post more legible by breaking into conventional paragraphs, as I have done, instead of the mediaeval technique of marking paragraphs with fleurons. Force linebreaks with two returns instead of long strings of spaces. Aug 14, 2015 at 11:36

2 Answers 2


Traditional grammar would probably describe the paying &c clause as an “adverbial” modifying washing, arguing that it describes the manner in which the glasses are washed. If all you need is a grammatical pigeonhole to put the clause in, that’s fine; but it doesn’t really describe what is happening here.

Let’s simplify the sentence and compare it with other sentences which work the same way.

John washed his glasses, paying special attention to the frames.
John washed his glasses, hoping to see better.
John washed his glasses, standing in the kitchen.
John washed his glasses, listening to the baseball game.

There may be some justification for saying that the paying clause describes how John washed his glasses, and in that sense “modifies” washed; but what about those other sentences?

  • Traditional grammar will tell you that the hoping clause is an “adverbial of purpose”, implying that this modifies washed (since that is the only word in the main clause which may be modified by an adverbial). But semantically that’s nonsense: hoping doesn’t describe the washing, it is exterior to the washing, it causes the washing and causes John to persevere in the washing. It is John who hopes.

  • Traditional grammar will likewise tell you that the standing clause is an “adverbial of location”, again implying that this modifies washed. Again, this is semantic nonsense: the washing doesn’t stand anywhere, it is John who stands.

  • I can’t recall that traditional grammar has an explicit name for the listening clause; but it certainly doesn’t “modify” washed: it’s an action performed by John apart from and alongside the washing.

What all these clauses have in common is their attachment to John, not to washed. Does this mean that we should understand them as adjectivals “modifying” John?

I think not. The participles paying, hoping, standing and listening all stand in exactly the same relationship to John as the finite verb washed: John is their subject. We cannot call these “adjectivals” unless we are going to say that washed his glasses is an adjectival, too.

What's really going on here is that the paying / hoping / standing / listening clauses are new predicates, which share their subject with the main-clause predicates to which they are attached. We can paraphrase all of these sentences as two distinct independent clauses:

John washed his glasses. He paid special attention to the frames.
John washed his glasses. He hoped to see better.
John washed his glasses. He stood in the kitchen.
John washed his glasses. He listened to the baseball game.

Using the participle is a literary device for casting these new predicates as a subordinates of their main clauses. They’re not integrated into their sentences but tacked on to the main clauses as "supplements" (the term is drawn from the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language). The usual point of the device is to establish a non-coordinate connection between the two clauses: to “foreground” the action of the main clause against another “background” action. Sometimes the background action immediately precedes or follows the foreground action, but usually the two are simultaneous, as in your example. That may be paraphrased:

The AOA recommends that you wash your glasses every day. [As you wash your glasses you should] pay special attention to the frames and earpieces,where hair product and makeup tend to rub off.

  • I don't get it....sorry,but your expression is a little bit complicated to understand..i think what you actually mean is that "paying...earpieces" is a parenthesis,right?
    – 오준수
    Aug 14, 2015 at 12:54
  • @오준수 Not exactly, though a parenthesis is another kind of 'supplement'. It might be described as an 'afterthought' -- something added to expand or clarify the original thought. Aug 14, 2015 at 13:05
  • By the way,why there is a comma before "where hair ........rub off"?
    – 오준수
    Aug 14, 2015 at 14:06
  • 1
    @오준수 The comma marks this as a non-restrictive relative clause, yet another sort of "supplement". Without the comma the clause would mean "pay special attention to those parts of the frame and earpieces where hair product &c"; with the comma it implies that special attention should be paid to the entire frame and earpieces, because that is where hair product &c" Aug 14, 2015 at 15:10
  • I got what you said about non-defining/restrictive clause..but i really can't comprehend the first problem..it looks neither like a parenthesis nor a combined clause using participle constructions.it just looks so weird...(recommend doing sth)and(recommend sb to sth) is a fixed usage..could you list me other non-complicated examples?
    – 오준수
    Aug 15, 2015 at 9:05

"Paying special attention to ..." is a participle clause. I wrote this answer, hoping to improve somebody's understanding of English. See more examples here.

  • I know that is a participle clause,the thing bothering me is that what kind of speech of part does that participle clause functions as in the sentence?. I mean,does it functions as an adjective or adverbial? secondly can the second half of sentence and third half of sentence be seen as a whole participle clause? . I mean, the participle clause you mentioned is(paying special attention to the frames and earpieces,where hair product and makeup tend to rub off) rather than only second half of sentence(paying special attention to the frames and earpieces),right?
    – 오준수
    Aug 14, 2015 at 12:13
  • I was perhaps too hasty. StoneyB's answer is fuller and more to the point. It's adverbial to modify "recommends", it's an iteration of sorts. Aug 14, 2015 at 12:20
  • Could i ask you a question again? You was like"it's adverbial to ....." but if it's an adverbial it should not be added a comma after main clause,shouldn't it? And you list a example"i wrote this answer,hoping to improve sb's understanding of english" in such case,the comma should be dropped,shouldn't it? If you add a comma,the second clause only can be something like supplement instead of an advebial
    – 오준수
    Aug 15, 2015 at 9:12
  • If there is no comma after the clause,i can consider it a kind of adverbial using participle construction
    – 오준수
    Aug 15, 2015 at 9:13
  • @오준수 , Yes, I think you can. Aug 15, 2015 at 12:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .