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Grammar Lesson 9

Reduced Adverb Clauses

Study the use of the preposition + -ing form in these sentences: 

While understanding her problem, I don't know what I can do to help. 

After spending so much money on the car, I can't afford a holiday.

We often use this pattern to avoid repeating the subject. Compare:

• Since moving to London, we haven't had time to go to the theatre, and • Since we moved to London, we haven't had time to go to the theatre, (subject repeated)

Words commonly used in this pattern include after, before, besides, by, in, on, since, through, while, with, without. We can sometimes use a passive form with being + past participle:

• Before being changed last year, the speed limit was 70 kph.

• He went to hospital after being hit on the head with a bottle.

• By working hard, she passed her math exam.

• They only survived by eating roots and berries in the forest.

• On returning from Beijing, he wrote to the Chinese embassy.

• John was the first person I saw on leaving hospital.

• In criticizing the painting, I knew I would offend her.

• In choosing Marco, the party has moved to the left.

We can often use by + -ing or in + -ing with a similar meaning: 

• In/By writing the essay about Spanish culture, I understood the country better. ('In writing...' = the result of writing was to understand...; 'By writing...' = the method I used to understand the country better was to write...) However, compare: • By/In standing on the table, John was able to look out of the window. (= the result of the chosen method) and • In standing (not By...) on the table, John banged his head on the ceiling. (= the result; John did not stand on the table in order to bang his head) With/without + -ing; what with + -ing With + -ing often gives a reason for something in the main clause. Notice that a subject has to come between with and -ing:

• With Louise living in Spain, we don't see her often. (= Because Louise lives in Spain...)

• With sunshine streaming through the window, Hugh found it impossible to sleep. (= Because sunshine was streaming...)

In informal, mainly spoken, English, we can also use what with + -ing to introduce a reason. Notice that there doesn't have to be a subject between with and -ing:

• What with Philip snoring all night, and the heavy rain, I didn't sleep a wink.

• What with getting up early and travelling all day, we were exhausted by the evening.

We can use without + ing to say that a second action doesn't happen:

• I went to work without eating breakfast.

Often, however, it has a similar meaning to 'although' or 'unless': >

• Without setting out to do so, I have offended her. (= Although I didn't set out to do so...)

• Without seeing the pictures, I can't judge how good they are. (= Unless I see the pictures...)  
Some words (adverbs or prepositional phrases used as adverbs) are used to connect ideas between one sentence and a previous sentence or sentences: 

• There was no heating in the building. As a result, the workers had to be sent home.

• We could go skiing at Christmas. Alternatively, we could just stay at home.

Others (conjunctions or prepositions) are used to connect ideas within a single sentence:

• While I was waiting, I read a magazine.

• I'll be wearing a red jumper so that you can see me easily.

Many words used to connect ideas between sentences can also connect two clauses in one sentence when they are joined with and, but, or, so, a semicolon (;), colon (:), or dash (-):

• The building was extremely well constructed and, consequently, difficult to demolish.

• You could fly via Singapore; however, this isn't the only way. 


• Even though much of the power of the trade unions has been lost, their political influence should not be underestimated.

Even so is a prepositional phrase used to introduce a fact that is surprising in the light of what was just said. It connects ideas between sentences:

• Much of the power of the trade unions has been lost. Even so, their political influence should not be underestimated. 

Although "however" is often used to connect ideas between sentences, it can also be used to connect ideas within a sentence:

• when it is followed by an adjective, adverb, or much/many:

• We just don't have the money to do the work, however necessary you think it is.

• when it means 'no matter how':

• However she held the mirror, she couldn't see the back of her neck.