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What Is a Reduced Relative Clause?

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Writers can reduce a relative clause if a preposition such as “in” or “on” follows it.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2014
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A reduced relative clause is a relative clause with the relative pronoun and the verb “be” omitted. For example, the sentence “the laptop that is on the desk” can be simplified to “the laptop on the desk” to make the relative clause a reduced relative clause. The relative clause can be reduced when the verb is progressive or passive and when it is followed by a prepositional phrase. It can also be reduced if a new subject and verb follows it. Writers and speakers cannot reduce the clause if it is followed by an adjective or a noun.

Writers or speakers can reduce a relative clause if a preposition such as “in” or “on” follows it. For example, the sentence “the books that are on the bookshelf” contains a relative clause with the preposition “on” following it. This means that the sentence can be stated with a reduced relative clause by removing the relative pronoun “that” and the conjugation of the to be verb “are.” The sentence would then become, “the books on the bookshelf.” The reduction of the clause makes the sentence more succinct and simpler without losing meaning.

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Grammatically correct reduction of a relative clause can also occur when the clause is followed by a passive verb. Passive verbs are verbs in which the object is acted on by the subject, as opposed to the subject acting on the object. For example, the sentence “the ball that was kicked by the man was orange” can be simplified using a reduced relative clause. The reduced version of the sentence reads “the ball kicked by the man was orange.”

English language speakers can also use a reduced relative clause if the verb following the clause is progressive, such as the verb “shopping” or “arguing.” Progressive verbs end in “ing” and are ongoing, in the present continuous tense. For example, the relative clause sentence “the man who is arguing is my friend” can be reduced. The reduction involves removing the relative pronoun “who” and the to be verb “is,” as it always does. “The man arguing is my friend” is the reduced relative clause version of the example.

Some circumstances are not suitable for a reduced relative clause, such as those followed by an adjective or a noun. For example, the sentence “The book which is green is mine” cannot be simplified because the relative clause “which is” is followed by the adjective “green.” The incorrect, reduced relative clause version of the sentence would be “the book green is mine.” A sentence such as “the woman who is a nurse is working hard” cannot be simplified because the relative clause is followed by a noun. The incorrect version of the sentence would read “the woman a nurse is working hard.”

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