This is the third and last of the questions posed to Betty Azar by a teacher of ESL.

3) What governs the use of "having + past participle"?
For instance, the sentence "He decided to paint his house because he found a small hole on the ceiling" could be reduced to "Finding a small
hole on the ceiling, he decided to paint his house" but I don't think "They decided to get married because they won the lottery" can be
reduced to "Winning the lottery, they decided to get married." It sounds much better to say, "Having won the lottery, ..."

Betty Azar replies:

(3) The answer here has something to do with the actions of the verbs happening at the same time or different times, and when it's necessary for sake of meaning to show they happened at different times, the "having + past participle" structure needs to be used.

Last edited {1}
Original Post
What we are talking about now is a participial clause (not a reduced adverb clause) that has an unspecified semantic relation with the main clause. Quirk et al.*, using the term "subjectless supplementive clause" to describe this kind of participial clause (as well as a few others) explain:

"Subjectless supplementive clauses...resemble nonrestrictive relative clauses...: the implied subject in the supplementive clause provides a link with the matrix clause....The [absence of an explicit adverbial marker] allows considerable flexibility in what we may wish them to convey. According to context, we may wish to imply temporal, conditional, causal, concessive, or circumstantial relationship.....For the reader or hearer, the actual nature of the accompanying circumstance has to be inferred from the context." (Section 15.60, p. 1124)

In other words, it is up to the reader to infer the meaning relationship.

Now, what about the aspect of the participle? Should it be simple or perfective?

Let me elaborate on what Betty Azar has stated. If both actions occur simultaneously, or if the first one is not completed, the participle will be simple, for example,

Reading over the instructions, I realized that I had left out the most important step

In contrast, if one event precedes the other and is completed, having + the perfect participle must be chosen to indicate the anteriority and completion of that event before the next one. That is the case with the sentence in 3):

3) Having won the lottery, they decided to get married.

The relation here could be causal, or merely temporal; we don't know.

A note about reducing adverb clauses: Not all adverb clauses can or should be reduced. If the clause can be reduced without altering the information flow, fine. But often the information in such clauses, especially assertions that form a major part of the discourse, should be left whole.

Marilyn Martin

* A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Longman, 1985)

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.