Reducing Clauses

ESL Grammar Exercises

EXERCISE: Subordinate the idea printed in italics by changing it to an appositive phrase. Be sure to insert the appositive phrase right after the word it explains and set it off by commas. Be careful not to use a relative pronoun like who, which, or that, or you will produce an adjective clause instead of an appositive.

1. We visited the Farmers’ Market. It is a place of great activity.

2. Eileen got credit for the victory. She was the relief pitcher.

3. Ms. Fritz will talk about careers in banking. She is the manager of a local bank.

4. A driver should look ahead a least 100 m. This is the length of a football field.

5. One of our most serious problems will be discussed. It is the inter national food shortage.

6. The debate was judged by Mrs. Leeds. She is a retired judge.

7. Soybeans were a failure that year. They were our principal crop.

8. The word “meander” comes from the Maiandros River. It is a zigzag river in Asia.

9. A French king invented high heels to make himself look taller. The king was Louis XIV.

10. Juan de Fuca and Lorenzo Maldonaldo both claimed to have discovered the North-West Passage. They were sixteenth century explorers. 

EXERCISE Subordinate the sentence or clause in italics by making it a participle phrase. Use a present or past participle, as the sense requires. When you lose a noun in making this change, put the noun back as subject of the independent clause.

1. Jeff circulated among his guests. He chatted a moment with each one.

2. The guides are high school students. They are dressed in Loyalist costumes.

3. I attempted to start a conversation. I made a remark about the weather.

4. Laura wore a parka. It was borrowed from a friend.

5. We stood in the doorway. We waited for the rain to stop.

6. The entire stock was damaged by smoke and water, and it was reduced in price.

7. A violin weighs about 0.5 kg, and it consists of about seventy pieces.

8. The company anticipated a strike and it bought large amounts of steel.

9. The barracuda will attack a person, and it is called the tiger of the sea.

10. The movie was adapted from a novel by Mordecai Richler, and it strikes a smashing blow against avarice.

 Subordination with Verbals: Infinitives and Gerunds

An infinitive is a verbal generally consisting of to followed by the verb (to buy, to sell, to own) It is commonly used as a noun but sometimes as an adjective or adverb.

Noun:                I tried to signal (direct object of the verb tried)

ADJECTIVE:    This is the way to start (modifies the noun way)

ADVERB:         We stopped to eat (modifies the verb stopped)

An infinitive phrase (consisting of an infinitive and its modifiers or complements) can often be used in place of a clause or sentence that shows why a previous action is performed. It often has much the same meaning as a “so that” adverb clause.

EXAMPLE:     The farmers raised their own feed. In this way they reduced costs.

The farmers raised their own feed to reduce costs

EXERCISE A: Subordinate the clause in italics by changing it to an infinitive phrase.

1. Our town has a plan. It will attract new industries.

2. We buy in large quantities. In this way we get a better price.

3. Don’t leave the motor running. It wastes gas

4. I wrote down the figures. This would prevent any misunderstanding.

5. Thoreau took to the woods. He wanted to learn how simply he could hue.

6. We sent out cards, and they reminded people to vote.

7. You must read the novels of Virginia Woolf. You will understand the stream of consciousness style of writing.

8. Jane Austen wrote her novels in a corner of the drawing room. She wished to avoid the disapproval of her relatives.

9. Virginia Woolf said that a woman needs a room of her own. There she can write in undisturbed privacy.

10. Until recent years all women faced strong social pressures. All were expected to marry and raise children.

 A gerund is a word that is formed from a verb and used as a noun. It is made by adding “ing” to a verb.

EXAMPLES:   Remembering is very important. (subject of the verb is)

His weakness is forgetting (subject complement)

We got home by walking (object of the preposition by)

A present participle and a gerund both end in -ing. If the -ing word is used as an adjective, it is a participle; if it is used as a noun, it is a gerund.

PRESENT PARTICIPLE         I found Judy studying her lines. (Modifies the noun Judy)

GERUND         Judy was tired of studying her lines. (Object of the preposition of)

You can often tighten up your writing by changing one of two sentences or one of the independent clauses of a compound sentence to a gerund phrase. A gerund phrase consists of a gerund and its modifiers or complements.

EXAMPLE:   Dip the peaches in boiling water. This makes the skins easy to peel.       Dipping the peaches in boiling water makes the skins easy to peel.

EXERCISE B Change the sentence in italics to a gerund phrase. In some of the sentences, you will need to put back the “lost” subject at the beginning of the independent clause. In most, you will need to supply a preposition. (Add 20 points for each correct sentence.)

1. The bus company has a machine. It sorts out coins.

2. Read your theme aloud. It is a good test for writing.

3. Jill has an annoying habit. She leaves doors open.

4. The dog chewed its leash. It escaped from the yard.

5. I lost my receipt, and this caused me great inconvenience.


EXERCISE Reduce each italicized clause to the word group indicated in parentheses. Cross out the unnecessary words and add the words you need to make the change.

Refer to the examples on the preceding page for help. (Add 10 points for each correct sentence.)

ellip. = elliptical clause

part. = participial phrase

infi = infinitive phrase 

A. I got the idea for this story while (I was) peeling potatoes. (ellip.)

B. Approaching (As he approached) the curve, the driver slowed down. (part.)

C. We need a sign that will attract attention. (inf.) to attract attention


1. If it is properly trained, a dog will not chase cars. (ellip.)

2. Jeanne Sauvé is very serious when she is discussing politics. (ellip.)

3. I lost my balance while I was climbing the ladder. (ellip.)

4. Because she knew that I liked animals, Jenny gave me a puppy for my birthday. (part.)

5. Mrs. Barry served us corn that was raised in her own garden. (part.)

6. The player who holds the highest card plays first. (part.)

7. I said nothing that could hurt his feelings. (inf.)

8. The words to ‘O Canadawhich were written by Stanley Weir in 1908 are not the official English version of the anthem. (part.)

9. Calixa Lavellée wrote the music in 1880 while he was working to establish a conservatory of music in Montreal. (ellip.)

10. The original French words which were written by Adolphe Routhier pre-date the English version by over twenty years. (part.)

Other Types of Reduction

Short sentences are not necessarily better than long sentences. For the sake of smoothness or variety, we sometimes prefer a slightly longer construction than we really need to use. Ordinarily, though, it is pointless to use a long, roundabout construction when a single word or a short phrase says exactly the same thing. Reduction is a good way to writing—to send a thought straight to its mark without the drag of useless words. Reduction eliminates words that add nothing to the meaning or interest of sentences.

1. Here are some examples showing how clauses can sometimes be reduced to prepositional phrases and to single words:

Adjective Clause:  I like a book that has an interesting plot.

Prepositional Phrase: I like a book with an Interesting plot


ADJECTIVE CLAUSE:  The plane carries a raft that is made of rubber.

ADJECTIVE:    The plane carries a rubber raft.

2. Often we can reduce an adjective clause to an appositive, making a neater, more compact sentence.

ADJECTIVE CLAUSE:  I felt sorry for Paul, who was the only child on the block.

Appositive: I felt sorry for Paul, the only child on the block.

3. A prepositional phrase with a gerund as the object of the preposition can often pinch-hit for an adverb clause.

Adverb Clause: If you take your time, you will do better work.

Prepositional Phrase: You will do better work by taking your time.

4. We can sometimes gain a word or two by using an adjective or an adverb in place of a prepositional phrase.

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE:  The road to Danville is temporarily closed.

ADJECTIVE:    The Danville road is temporarily closed.

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE: We play this game in a different way.

ADVERB:         We play this game differently.

EXERCISE Reduce each italicized phrase or clause to the construction indicated in parentheses. Cross out the words and insert with a caret (^) any words you need. If the new expression should be placed at a different point in the sentence, draw an arrow from it to the place where it belongs. Refer to the examples above whenever you feel puzzled. (Add 5 points for each correct sentence.)

prep.     prepositional phrase                   app. = appositive

prep. ger. = prepositional phrase           adj.      adjective

with gerund as object                             adv. = adverb

1. A girl whose voice was very good sang several songs. (prep.)

2. Even the people who were in the last row heard very well. (prep.)

3. I wouldn’t care to live in a neighbourhood that doesn’t have any trees. (prep.)

4. We were stuck for an hour on a road that was muddy. (adj.)

5. Dorothy Livesay depicts all her characters with care. (adv.)

6. There are telephones for the public in the hotel lobby. (adj.)

7. You can’t do the job in a satisfactory way in ten minutes. (adv.)

8. One should not tell gloomy and depressing stories to people when they are sick. (adj.)

9. The Red Cross immediately sent help to the disaster area that was in the Southwest. (prep.)

10. Barton, who was our star goalie, had sprained his wrist in the previous game. (app.)

11. San Marino, which is the world’s smallest republic, covers an area of 40km2.    (app.)

12. Galileo, who was an Italian astronomer, offered proof that the earth revolves around the sun. (app.)

13. The city zoo, which is the delight of all children, is always crowded on Sundays. (app.)

14. The committee suggested a new plan that will reduce air pollution. (prep. ger.)

15. I believe that accidents should be prevented before they happen. (prep. ger.)

16. The entertainer faces a fine and prison sentence because he evaded his income tax. (prep. ger.)

17. The family l always been irresponsible in financial matters. (adu.)

18. Elba always agrees with the speaker that is rational. (a4i.)

19. The superintendent stated no reason why she resigned (prep. ger.)

20. After we had combed the neighbourhood for our dog. we put an ad in the local paper. (prep. ger.)


Building Better Sentences

Carpenters with only hammers and saws in their tool kits can’t do much more than join boards crudely together. Te make boards fit snugly and strongly,. they need quite a variety of tools.

It is the same in our ENGLISH WORKSHOP. Sentence makers with only “and” and “so” in their tool kits can turn out only loose, wobbly sentences. To make joints tight and strong, they must have a large supply of tools.             -

With the tools that you have collected in this chapter, you now have a well-equipped workbench with all the tools you need to do a skilful job. This exercise will give you valuable experience in fitting ideas together into well-made sentences.

EXERCISE Combine each group of clauses into a single complex sentence, using the sentence printed in regular type for your independent clause. Subordinate all the other ideas by putting them in the constructions indicated in parentheses. You will find that you can fit the ideas into the independent clause in the same order in which they are printed. (Add 5 points for each lettered item handled correctly.)

A. (a) The paint is still wet. (adverb clause)

(b) Ground glass is sprinkled on the highway lines.

(c) This reflects light at night. (infinitive phrase)


1.  Judge Elizabeth Fry sentenced a man to jail.

(b) She was a strict jurist. (appositive)

(c) He had continued to drive his car. (adjective clause)

(d) His licence had been revoked (adverb clause)


2. (a) Patricia Gould rescued l57 people in 11 years. (prepositional phrase with gerund)

(b) She is a lifeguard at Cedar Beach. (appositive)

(c) She received her first thank-you note.

(d) It expressed gratitude for the rescue. (participial phrase)


Sentence Blueprints

Combine each group of ideas into a single, well-organized sentence around the independent clause, which is printed in regular type. Subordinate the italicized ideas by putting them in the constructions indicated in parentheses. You will find that you can generally arrange the ideas in the order in which they are printed.

(Add 5 points for each italicized item handled correctly.)


1. (a) Pemmican is a type of pounded meat.

(b) It is sewn into skin bags. (adjective clause)

(c) It has been mixed with animal fat and berries (adverb clause)


 2. (a) A blaze broke out in the back of his truck. (adverb clause)

(b) Frank drove to a nearby fire station.

(c) Fire fighters put out the blaze. (adjective clause with where)

(d) They used fire extinguishers. (prepositional phrase)


3. (a) Arthur Meighen was minister of the interior. (adverb clause)

(b) He formulated the terms of the Military Service Act of 1917.

(c) The Act was controversial. (adjective—one word)

(d) The Act embodied a srslem of conscription. (adjective clause)


4. (a) Many Canadian hotels used to have “sample rooms.”

(b) A “sample room” was an area set aside for salesmen. (appositive)

(c) These salesmen might wish to display their goods. (adjective clause)

(d) The purpose would he to entice prospective customers. (infinitive phrase)


5. (a) George Moore had a cat.

(b) He was an Irish novelist. (appositive)

(c) It forced him to pay attention to it. (adjective clause)

(d) It jumped on his desk and took his pen from his hand. (prepositional phrase with two gerunds)


6. (a) This happened in the eighteenth century. (prepositional phrase)

(b) A Dutchman invented roller skates.

(c) He attached wheels to his ice skates. (prepos. phrase with gerund)

(d) He could skate in warm weather. (adverb clause)


7. (a) The first airplane flight from a ship took place in 1910.

(b) Eugene Ely flew a land plane from a temporary wooden runway. (adverb clause)

(c) He was an early American flyer. (appositive)

(d) The runway was constructed on the deck of the U.S.S. Birmingham. (participle)