1. He hurt his arm while he was playing tennis.

  2. He hurt his arm playing tennis.

  3. He hurt his arm while playing tennis.

I can justify sentences 1 and 2 (2 is reduced version of 1). But, I have no idea about grammarian structure of the while playing in sentence three (3).


I want to now is there any specific rule for the reduction that happened in the sentence 3 ?

1 Answer 1


In your third sentence 'while' is a conjunction that means "at the same time as". Also, the implied "he was" is omitted right before the 'playing', so the full version would be

He hurt his arm while he was playing tennis.

which is exactly as your sentence 1.

The difference in meaning between those and the sentence 2 is that the injury "he" received is directly related to playing tennis in (2), and only temporal connection between the playing and the injury exists in sentences (1) and (3). Of course, it is likely that "during" is understood as "because of", especially about an injury; it's not the same if instead of "hurt himself" we had "received a phone call", for instance.

  • the he is has been omitted under what rule ? The reason I ask the question. I know how to reduce the subordinate clauses, but I think this is a different reduction.
    – Cardinal
    Aug 21, 2015 at 12:59
  • I think it's called "a reduced (temporal) clause", see grammar-quizzes.com/8-12.html for example. Aug 21, 2015 at 13:01

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