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Non-finite clauses - Using non-defining clauses


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Non-finite clauses

117 A non-finite clause is a subordinate clause which contains a participle or an infinitive, but which does not contain a finite verb.

There are two kinds of non-finite clause. One kind begins with a subordinating conjunction.

Quite often while talking to you they'd stand on one foot.

You've got to do something in depth in order to understand it.

This hind of clause is dealt with fn the sections on adverbial clauses (paragraphs 8 to 82).

The other kind of non-finite clause does not begin with a subordinating conjunction.

He pranced about, feeling very important indeed.

I wanted to talk to her.

This kind of clause sometimes consists of a participle and nothing else.

Ellen shook her head, smiling.

Bet, grumbling, had departed to her harp lesson.

Clauses which contain a participle and do not begin with a subordinate conjunction are explained in the following paragraphs.

118 The non-finite clauses discussed in this section function the similar way to relative clauses, and, like relative clauses, they can have a defining or non-defining function.

Non-defining clauses are dealt with in paragraphs 120 to 131. These clauses are often used in writing, but are not usually used in spoken English.

Defining clauses are dealt with in paragraphs 132 and 133. These clauses are occasionally used in both written and spoken English.

119 Non-defining clauses can go in front of a main clause, after a main clause, or in the middle of one. A non-defining clause is usually separated by a comma from the words in front of it and after it.

Defining clauses always go after a noun group. You never put a comma in front of a defining clause.

Using non-defining clauses

120 Non-defining clauses give further information which is not needed to identify the person, thing, or group you are talking about.

The following paragraphs 121 to 126 explain how these clauses are used when they relate to the subject of the verb in a main clause. The subject is not mentioned in the non-defining clause.

present participle: simultaneous events 121 If you want to say that someone is doing or experiencing two things at the same time, you mention one of them in the main clause and the other in a clause containing a present participle.

Laughing and shrieking, the crowd rushed under the nearest trees.

Jane watched, weeping, from the doorway.

Feeling a little foolish, Pluskat hung up.

Walking about, you notice something is different.

People stared at her. Seeing herself in a shop window, she could understand why.

present participle: one action after another 122 If you want to say that someone did one thing immediately after another, you mention the first action in a clause containing a present participle and the second one in the main clause.

Leaping out of bed, he dressed so quickly that he put his boots on the wrong feet.

present participle: reasons 123 If you want to explain why someone does something or why something happens, you say what happens in the main clause and give the reason in a clause containing a present participle.

At one point I made up my mind to go and talk to Uncle Sam. Then I changed my mind, realising that he could do nothing to help.

The baby would probably not live to grow up, being a scrawny little thing, unlikely to survive the normal ailments of childhood.

124 You can also use a present participle directly after a verb in a sentence such as 'I stood shivering at the roadside'. This use is explained in paragraphs 3.190 to 3.203.

'having' and past participle: results 125 If you want to say that someone did or experienced one thing before another, you mention the first thing in a clause containing 'having' and a past participle. Often this kind of construction indicates that the second event was a result of the first one.

I did not feel terribly shocked, having expected him to take the easiest way out.

Having married very late, he was only a year short a fifty when I was born.

past participle: earlier events 126 If you want to say what happened to someone or something before a situation or event described in the main clause, you say what happened in a clause containing a past participle on its own.

The novels of Mary Webb, praised by Stanley Baldwin and so popular in the 30s, were great favourites of mine.

Angered by the policies of the union, she wrote a letter to the General Secretary.

mentioning the subject 127 Sometimes you want to use a non-defining clause which has a different subject from the subject of the main clause. These clauses are explained in the following paragraphs 128 to 131.

128 In this kind of non-defining clause, you usually have to mention the subject.

Ashton being dead, the whole affair must now be laid before Colonel Browne.

However, if the non-defining clause comes after the main clause, and it is clear from the context that it relates to the object of the main clause, you do not need to mention the object again.

They picked the up, kicking and bawling, and carried me up the road.

129 You use a non-defining clause containing a subject and a present participle:

when you want to mention something that is happening at the same time as the event or situation described in the main clause

Her eyes glistening with tears, she stood up and asked the Council: 'What am I to do?'

when you want to mention a fact that is relevant to the fact stated in the main clause.

Bats are surprisingly long-lived creatures, some having a life-expectancy of around twenty years.

'With' is sometimes added at the beginning of the non-finite clause.

The old man stood up with tears running down his face.

130 You use 'having' and a past participle to mention something which happened before the thing described in the main clause.

About twice a month, enough evidence having accumulated, the police would feel obliged to stage a raid.

The Border having become more settled, they had selected a site near the Kalpani River.

George having been carried to his cabin, Ash had gone up to the deserted deck.

The subject having been opened, he had to go on with it.

You use a past participle on its own to say that something was done or completed before the event or situation described in the main clause.

He proceeded to light his pipe. That done, he put on his woollen scarf art went out.

131 In a negative non-defining clause, you put 'not' in front of the participle, or in front of 'having'.

He paused, not wishing to boast.

He failed to recognize her at first, not having seen her for fifteen years or so.

He began hitting them with his stick, their reply not having come as quickly as he wanted.

Using defining clauses

132 Defining non-finite clauses explain which person or thing you are talking about. They are always placed after the noun in a noun group.

The old lady driving the horse was all in black.

The bus carrying the freedom riders arrived just before noon.

133 Defining clauses can be used after indefinite pronouns such as 'anyone'.

Anyone following this advice could find himself in trouble.

Ask anybody nearing the age of retirement what they think.

Other structures used like non-finite clauses

134 Phrases which do not contain a verb are sometimes used in writing in a similar way to non-finite clauses.

135 In writing, you can add a phrase containing one or more adjectives to a sentence. This is another way of making two statements in one sentence.

For example, instead of writing 'We were tired and hungry. We reached the farm', you could write 'Tired and hungry, we reached the farm'.

Surprised at my reaction, she tried to console me.

Much discouraged, I moved on to Philadelphia.

The boy nodded, pale and scared.

He knocked at the door, sick with fear and embarrassment.

'Of course,' said Ash, astonished.

136 In a similar way, you can use a phrase to describe something which is connected with the subject of a sentence. The phrase consists of a noun group, followed by an adjective, an adjust, or another noun group.

For example, instead of writing 'He came into the room. His hat was in his hand', you could write 'He came into the room, his hat in his hand'.

'What do you mean by that?' said Hugh, his face pale.

She stood very erect, her body absolutely stiff with fury.

He was waiting, drumming with his fingers, his eyes on his napkin.

'With' is sometimes added at the beginning of a phrase.

She walked on, with her eyes straight ahead.

It was a hot, calm day, with every object at the sea's surface visible for miles.


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