Hello!

I’m wondering if a non-restrictive participle clause can be used on non-subjects.

For example:

I lied to my mom, looking at me.

I find this sentence extremely odd. However, this one isn’t:

I lied to my mom, who is looking at me. 

If the first example is odd to native speakers as well, I would like to deduce that perhaps a non-restrictive participle clause is not a simplified, reduced relative clause, but an adverbial participle clause?

Thanks!

Last edited by Jasper
Original Post

Hello, Jasper, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

@Jasper posted:

I’m wondering if a non-restrictive participle clause can be used on non-subjects.

Yes, that is possible. It can happen with both present and past participial clauses:

(1a) She has one other brother named John.
(1b) She has one other brother, named John.

(2a) We watched her favorite movie starring Brad Pitt.
(2b) We watched her favorite movie, starring Brad Pitt.

In (1a) (restrictive), she has more than one brother who is named John, and she has already mentioned at least one other John that is her brother. In (1b) (nonrestrictive), there is one other brother besides those that have already been mentioned, and his name happens to be John.

In (2a) (restrictive), the sentence is not about her all-time-favorite movie. It is about her favorite movie starring a particular actor, namely, Brad Pitt. In (2b) (nonrestrictive), the sentence is about her all-time-favorite movie, which happens to star Brad Pitt.

@Jasper posted:
For example:

I lied to my mom, looking at me.

I find this sentence extremely odd.

I agree. That sentence is extremely odd.

@Jasper posted:
However, this one isn’t:


I lied to my mom, who is looking at me. 

That sentence, though strange, is not unacceptable.

@Jasper posted:
If the first example is odd to native speakers as well, I would like to deduce that perhaps a non-restrictive participle clause is not a simplified, reduced relative clause, but an adverbial participle clause?

In light of the four examples I have given above, I don't recommend making that inference. We could say, however, that participial clauses that are set off by a comma (especially present-participial clauses that are set off by a comma) following the verb have a strong tendency to receive adverbial interpretations when the participle does not obviously apply to the noun phrase preceding it.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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