A poem was written by David to explain the nature of love. And this poem attracted me. Can I write this?

The poem written by David explaining love attracted me.

Let's imagine a poem has been written on a signboard in a park, and this poem explains the nature of love. Can I write this?

The poem written on the signboard in this park explaining love attracted me.

  • 1
    How have you placed present participle after 'David' in the first sentence? It means that the task of explaining was done by David, not by poem. It is also true for second sentence. It seems that the nature of love was explained by park, not by poem.
    – user17969
    Dec 3, 2015 at 17:14
  • those are both past participles so I can't answer that. (Written and attracted are both past participles.) Dec 3, 2015 at 17:25
  • @NazmulHassan Not necessarily; postposited adjectivals like these participle clauses can be 'stacked' just like preposited attributive adjectives. Dec 3, 2015 at 17:25
  • @SamHarrington No: written is a past participle, explaining is a present participle, and attracted is a past-tense finite verb. Dec 3, 2015 at 17:26
  • Oh ok I just got confused sorry. Dec 3, 2015 at 17:55

2 Answers 2


This would be easier explained with a sentence diagram.

"The poem written by David explaining love" is a noun phrase that acts as the subject of the sentence.

This phrase is made up of a noun phrase and a participle clause: "The poem written by David" + "explaining love"

This noun phrase is in turn made up of "The poem" and the adjectival phrase "written by David".

This is perfectly grammatical, but this kind of construction is considered bad form because it makes the sentence harder to read. It can be 'fixed up' to make it more readable: "The poem explaining love, written by David, attracted me." The change in order is because "the poem" and "David" are both capable of "explaining", so it's ambiguous. It's clear that "the poem" and not "love" was "written". The parenthetical commas break up the sentence so it's easier to parse.


These sentences are entirely proper, although as Nazmul Hassan suggests you would do better to rephrase them so it is clearer what the explaining clause modifies.

Don't be misled by the traditional names present participle and past participle. Participles don't have tense; the clauses they head "borrow" their tenses from the surrounding context. You would do better to think of these as active and passive participles or as perfect and progressive participles.

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