This is the first of three questions about reduced adverb clauses submitted to the Grammar Exchange team by a teacher. Each of the questions was answered briefly by Betty Azar, then they were answered more in detail by Marilyn.

Although these exchanges were not posted on the newsgroup, we feel that they will be of interest to the members.

Here is the first question, with its responses:

1) "She decided to quit school after she got married." can be reduced to

"After getting married, she decided to quit school."

but it seems that "She decided to quit school after she gets married"

can't be reduced, or if it can, it would be ambiguous (again, "After
getting married, she decided to quit school.")

Is there a rule that adverb clauses of time referring to the future cannot be reduced?

Betty Azar replies:

(1) As for your first question, the time of the modifying adverb phrase is the same as that of the main verb --

After getting married, she's going to quit school = After she gets married (in the future)

After getting married, she quit school = After she got married.

The adverb phrase assumes the time of the main verb unless there are other time indicators.

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Original Post
Even the original sentence,

1a) She decided to quit school after she got married

is ambiguous, since the adverb clause "after she got married" comes at the end. It could mean that her quitting school would occur (in the past) after she got married (in the past), or that the decision to quit school took place after she got married.

If the clause is reduced to a present participial phrase and left at the end of the main clause, it will still be ambiguous:

She decided to quit school after getting married.

On the other hand, if the participial phrase is moved to the beginning of the sentence ("After getting married, she decided to quit school"), it is not ambiguous, since the deciding is understood to be subsequent to the getting married.

(The writer then asks about what happens if 1b. is reduced)

1b) She decided to quit school after she gets married

As Betty Azar reminds us, the tense of the verb in a reduced adverb clause is understood to be the same as the tense of the verb in in the main clause. This is why, given that the verb in "after she gets married" does not refer to the same time as the main verb, the adverb clause should not be reduced. It should be left with the verb in the present tense, to show that the quitting school has not happened yet. The sentence should remain in its full form

She decided to quit school after she gets married

There is an alternative version, with the "after" -clause reduced:

She decided that, after getting married, she will quit school

This version uses that plus a full noun clause instead of an infinitive phrase, even though the adverb clause is reduced.

In either version, there's no avoiding using a finite verb--either the present tense gets in the "after" clause, or, if the adverb clause is reduced to a participial clause ("after getting married"), the full noun clause "that...she will quit school."

Marilyn Martin

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