Grammar-QuizzesConnectorsAdjunct Prepositions › While/When -ing

While/When -ing

Express time-related activities w/ reduced clauses

A smelly skunk

 

 

Reduce time-related (temporal) clauses

FINITE (FULL) CLAUSE

A preposition phrase with before, after, when, while or since can be added to the main clause to relate a second activity.  The structure is called an adjunct because it is not required by the main clause. It adds extra information. The preposition may take a finite clause as its complement (shown below) or a nonfinite clause (shown to the right).                  

MAIN CLAUSE TIME-RELATED CLAUSE
SUBJECT IS MODIFIED CONNECTOR + CLAUSE

Jack saw a skunk
look up 

while he was walking.
         look up 
(same subject)

Jack stopped (2nd)

when he spotted it. (1st)

Jack waited a short time (1st)

before he continued on. (2nd)

Jack still smelled the skunk (2nd)

after he passed that area.(1st)

Jack has been taking a new way home   (2nd)

since he saw a skunk there. (1st–from that time to now)

NONFINITE (REDUCED) CLAUSE

The complement of the prepositional phrase, a finite clause, may be changed to a nonfinite clause only if it is clear who or what the phrase is modifying.  Because a nonfinite clause does not usually include a subject, important information may be lost. Make this change only if the subject of the main clause and the nonfinite clause refer to the same person. (gerund nonfinite clause)

MAIN CLAUSE TIME-RELATED REDUCED CLS
SUBJECT IS MODIFIED CONNECTOR + GERUND CLS

Jack saw a skunk

while walking home.
look up
modifies Jack

Jack stopped

when spotting it.

Jack waited a while

before continuing on.

Jack could still smell the skunk

after passing through the area.

Jack has been taking a different way home

since seeing a skunk there.

 

spot (V) – notice, identify, recognize

Complement:  an element or structure that is required to complete another expression in the clause. For example, the verb see requires a complement—an object. John saw the skunk.  A preposition requires a complement. See Prepositional Complements.

Adjunct: elements not required by another expression in the clause.  Words, phrases or structures that add extra information to the main clauss (e.g., adverbs, some prep phrases, some modifiers)  See Adjuncts.

 

See Grammar Notes for terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reduced Clauses

Initial vs. Final Position

 

 

 

Positioning the phrase before vs after the main clause

INITIAL

commaAn adjunct prepositional phrase can be moved in front of the main clause for emphasis. A comma is placed after it.

TIME-RELATIVE EXPRESSION MAIN CLAUSE

While walking home, (same)

Jack came across an animal.

When spotting the animal(1st)

he stopped.  (2nd)

Upon seeing a skunk(1st)

he turned around.  (2nd)

Before continuing on, (2nd)

he waited a short time. (1st)

After passing the area,

he could till smell the skunk.

Since seeing a skunk there,

he has been taking a new way home.

FINAL

no commaNo comma is used when the adjunct prepositional phrase is placed after the main clause.                                                     

MAIN CLAUSE TIME-RELATIVE EXPRESSION

Jack came across an animal

while walking home.

He stopped

when spotting the animal.

He stopped

upon seeing a skunk.

He waited a short time

before continuing on.

He could still smell the skunk

after passing the area.

He has been taking a different way home

since seeing a skunk there.

 

came across – met my chance
upon – when

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reduced Clauses

Omitting When, While or Upon

dog coming indoors
 

 

Omitting when, while  and upon

WHEN / WHILE INCLUDED

A prepositional phrase with when or while can be placed directly before the subject noun (the person doing the action) in the main clause. The temporal (time-related) phrase is understood as a modifier to the closest noun in the main clause—the subject.

MODIFIER MAIN CLAUSE
TIME-RELATED REDUCED CLS SUBJECT IS MODIFIED

 When arriving home
   modifies Jack
   modifies Jack  

Jack greets his dog.    

While getting a drink of water

Jack watches his dog.    

Upon bringing in his dog

Jack wipes its paws.    

WHEN / WHILE OMITTED

While or when can be omitted only if it is clear who or what the modifying phrase refers to. Position the nonfinite clause next to the noun it modifies. The same-time relationship will be understood from the context.                                                    

MODIFIER MAIN CLAUSE
GERUND CLS SUBJECT IS MODIFIED

Arriving home,
   modifying clause
   modifies Jack

Jack greets his dog.

 

Getting a drink of water,

Jack watches his dog 

Bringing in his dog,

Jack wipes its paws.    

 

*Yellow highlighting indicates example of incorrect usage.
(Upon means when.)
Related page Clause

 

 

 

 
SUBJECT MODIFIER

A when, while or upon modifying phrase placed after the main clause is still understood as modifying the subject noun.

MAIN CLAUSE MODIFIER TO SUBJ

Jack greets his dog

when arriving home.
(understood–modifies Jack)

Jack watches his dog

while getting a drink of water.
(understood–modifies Jack)

Jack wipes his feet

upon entering the house.  (understood–modifies Jack)

OBJECT MODIFIER

Removing when, while or upon from the modifying phrase may result in confusion. It is unclear which noun the modifier refers to!

MAIN CLAUSE MODIFIER TO SUBJ or OBJ?

Jack greets his dog

*arriving home. 
(Jack or the dog?)

Jack watches his dog

getting a drink of water.
(Jack or the dog?)

Jack wipes his feet

entering the house.
(understood–modifies Jack)

 

*Better placement: Arriving home, Jack greets his dog. /  Jack, arriving home, greets his dog.  Place the modifier directly before or after the noun to help clarify the reference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reduced Clauses

Omitting After

door locked
 

 

Expressing an earlier time in a reduced clause

WHEN / WHILE INCLUDED

After is included in a reduced clause to express an earlier time frame than that of the main clause.  No change to the (nonfinite) verb form is required.

MODIFIER MAIN CLAUSE
SAME-TIME SUBJECT IS MODIFIED

After being burglarized,   

Anne is very cautious.

After closing the windows,   

Anne locked the front door.

After setting the alarm,

Anne locked the front door. 

REDUCED

After can be omitted from a modifying clause. However, the earlier time is then expressed in the form of the verb—a past participle. Past Nonfinite.

MODIFIER MAIN CLAUSE
EARLIER SUBJECT IS MODIFIED

Having been burglarized,   

Anne is very cautious.

Having closed the windows,

Anne locked the front door.

Having set the alarm,

Anne locked the front door.. 

 

burglarize (V) – break in and steal from
cautious (Adj) – careful

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*Before taking a driving course, his father told him to be careful.

Who is taking the driving course? 

*Unfortunately, the ball hit Jack in the back of the head while running.  

Who was running – the ball or Jack? 

We stopped hearing the police siren

(Unclear – this means we were no longer hearing the sound.)

SOLUTION

Before the son took a driving course, his father told him to be careful.

The subjects of both clauses must be the same to use a modifying clause.

Unfortunately, the ball hit Jack in the back of the head while Jack was running. (Restate the subject.)

Unfortunately, Jack was hit  in the back of the head while [he was] running.

(Rephrase the sentence with Jack as the subject of the main clause.)  

We stopped when hearing the police siren.

We stopped when we heard the police siren.

 

*Yellow highlighting indicates example of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes(Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

 

 

 

"Adverbial Clauses" / "Temporal Location Expressions"

PAST GRAMMAR CURRENT GRAMMAR

Adverbial Clauses 

In traditional grammar while, when, before, after, an since are conjunctions which join an adverb clause to an independent clause. The term adverbial clause is used because the clause adds time-related information about the verb and answers the question When? This added-on structure is called a dependent clause because it can not stand alone as a sentence.

 

Swan (2009) refers to while, when, before, after, and since as conjunctions. (30.1)

Temporal Location Expressions 

In current linguistic analysis—while, when, before, after, and since —have been re-classified into the category of preposition. Each of these temporal expressions takes a finite clause or nonfinite clause as its complement.  

Preposition (PP) + finite clause—John saw a skunk while he was walking home.

Preposition (PP) + nonfinite clause—John saw a skunk while walking home. [gerund-pariciple]

Before or after additionally takes a noun phrase as its complement.

Preposition (PP) + noun (NP)—John smelled the skunk before the sighting. John saw the skunk before us.

(Note that a Preposition is not limited to a noun complement. In fact, it may take a number of structures as its complement. Prep Complements)

Azar & Hagen call these adverbial clauses or "time clauses" with no mention of a term for the connector. It is not clear whether while, when, before, after, and since are adverbs or conjunctions.   "A time clause begins with such words as when, before after, as soon as, until, and while and includes a subjects and a verb.  The time clause can come either at the beginning of the sentence or in the second part of the sentence…" (4-3, Adverb clauses 17-2; Reduction  18-1)

Huddleston & Pullum (2009) have re-assigned a large number of items previously analyzed as adverbs after, as, as soon as, before, once, since while, and when to the class of Preposition.  The preposition is the head of the prepositional phrase (PP) which can be complemented by a noun phrase or a clause with a subject and a verb, or a clause with a gerund-participle.  (612-7)
Also see " Nonfinite clauses as modifiers and supplements"  (1265-6)

Quirk & Greenbaum (1989) place while, when, before, after, and since in the class of conjunction.  They function as subordinators of adjunct clauses that express time-relationship. (8.53)
 

The structure is called an adjunct because it is not required by the verb to complete the sentence. It adds additional information.

Complement—John saw a skunk.  ["a skunk" is required to complete the verb]

Adjunct— John saw a skunk while we were walking.  [the prepositional phrase is an "add on", extra information]

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Same-time Events

Counting Sheep
 

Shorten the clause to a modifying clause if possible. 

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 1-10" button.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.


(No comma)

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Verb Forms in Modifying Clauses

a pulled muscle
 

Decide on the verb form that should be used in the reduced clause.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 11-16" button.

 

11.

 
a pulled muscle (N) – to injure a muscle by stretching it too much during physical activity

12.
stretching out

stretch out (V) – extend muscles in body

13.


elliptical machine (N) – a machine for exercising

14.

15.

16.


injure (V) – hurt