Reducing Adverbial Clauses

Same time

Time clauses with “while” and “when” can be reduced by deleting the subject and “be” verb.

  • While I was eating dinner, I watched television.
  • While eating dinner, I watched television.
  • When you are in Rome, (you) do as the Romans do.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

If there is no “be” verb, change the verb in the subordinating clause to its -ing form. Sometimes the subordinator (when or while) can be deleted as well.

  • When I opened the door, I saw a strange sight.
  • When opening the door, I saw a strange sight.
  • Opening the door, I saw a strange sight.

Note: If the subjects are different, you may not reduce the adverbial clause.

  • While I was taking a shower, my sister called from California.
  • (NOT) While taking a shower, my sister called from California.

Be careful when reducing time clauses that come at the end of sentences.

  • We saw many beautiful birds while we were fishing in the lake.
  • We saw many beautiful birds while fishing in the lake.
  • (NOT) We saw many beautiful birds fishing in the lake.

In the last sentence, the meaning is ambiguous: Are we fishing or are the birds fishing?

Different times

  • After I finished my homework, I went to bed.
  • After finishing my homework, I went to bed.
  • After I had finished my homework, I went to bed.
  • After having finished my homework, I went to bed.
  • Having finished my homework, I went to bed.
  • Before he left the dance, Jerry said good-bye to his girlfriend.
  • Before leaving the dance, Jerry said good-bye to his girlfriend.

Other clauses

Sometimes clauses with because can be reduced.

  • Because he was a doctor, George knew how to handle the situation.
  • Being a doctor, George knew how to handle the situation.
  • As a doctor, George knew how to handle the situation.