Present participle or relative clause: "writing this thing" in "You did too good of a job writing this thing"

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2

You did too good of a job writing this thing.

It is understood that "writing" is not a reduced relative clause which modifies job. The anchored subject of "writing" is clearly "you". Then what is the role of "writing this thing" in terms of grammar? Present participle?

Cihangir Çam

Posted 2015-12-28T15:15:27.413

Reputation: 710

I think it replaces a passive: You did too a good of a job writing this thing = which was written. – Alejandro – 2015-12-28T15:50:18.473

It must be one of those leading roles. Something pretty important, I would imagine. Too bad I don't know any grammar terms. I sort of know what a "subject" is. I also remember "predicate," although I'm not altogether certain what it means, whether it's a bunch of words or just one word or whatever. – Ricky – 2015-12-28T16:12:38.237

@Subjunctive I think it is completely impossible.Reducing a relative clause which contain a passive voice is done in that formula : being +v3. In our example it should have like this "a job being written" if you are seeking a passive voice.Plus "write" verb takes an object "this thing". – Cihangir Çam – 2015-12-28T16:56:39.720

Answers

4

This is a really gnarly question! I have two nominees:

  • a gerund clause in apposition to the direct object a good job ... This understands writing this thing as fundamentally a restatement or specification of job—it tells what good job it is that you did.

  • a gerund clause acting as an optional complement to the noun phrase a good job ... This understands the gerund clause as one of the constructions licensed to specify job (I got a job writing ads); in contexts like this it alternates with [PP+gerund clause] constructions headed by of (You did a good job of writing this.)

Alongside these, however, I have to observe

  • You did a good job might be paraphrased as You did well; you could say "You did well writing this", and writing this would now stand in apposition to did well. Hmmm ...

  • You could move the clause without doing serious damage to the sense; you could say Writing this, you did a good job, and writing this would now seem to be an clausal adjunct, a participle clause modifying the following main clause, anchored to its subject you. This construction alternates in this context with [PP+gerund clause] constructions headed by in (In writing this you did a good job). Hmmm ...

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2015-12-28T15:15:27.413

Reputation: 176 469

At last , a native speaker comprehended what I am trying to express. Thank you for your so valuable insight.I want to express clearly what I understand.At first glance when looking at the sentence ,I kind of sense that "your doing too good of a job" is contingent upon "writing this thing".I sense that the kind of the relationship of "writing this thing" to the main clause is like "by writing this thing, you did too good of a job".That is the closest meaning I infer from the original sentence. – Cihangir Çam – 2015-12-28T23:18:34.347

@CihangirÇam The simplest way of expressing what the sentence says is "You wrote this too well". It looks like the original context had to do with a legal document which the speaker wishes had a loophole that would enable him to weasel out of his obligations. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-12-28T23:24:19.663

1+1 both versions make sense to me as well as @CopperKettle's which is why I'm upvoting his answer either. Would it be wrong if I called the phrase in question non finite verb phrase? – Lucian Sava – 2015-12-29T22:31:12.850

@LucianSava It's a non-finite verb something; I avoid the term "verb phrase" because VP has a narrow technical meaning in some grammars. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-12-29T23:17:42.390

I would characterize it as a clausal adjunct. http://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/1648/ What's your take on it?

– Kinzle B – 2016-10-05T15:19:08.793

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I leafed through Quirk et al's Comprehensive Grammar, and it seems that this might be an example of what they call subjectless supplementive clause.

They provide the following ambiguous example:

I saw Pam going home.

If we read it as "I saw [Pam going home]", then going home supplements Pam. "Pam" is the "overt subject" of "going home".

If we read it as "Going home, I saw Pam", then going home is a "subjectless supplementive clause" with the pronoun I as its "implied subject".

I don't know how other grammars treat such constructions, and "supplementive clause" is a rarely-used term.


Reference:

Quirk et al., "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language", 15.62, 'Supplementive Clauses in Final Position'.

Their definition of a supplemental clause:

Supplemental clauses: adverbial participle and verbless clauses without a subordinator.


P.S. In CGEL, such constructions are discussed in Chapter 14, Part 9: "Non-finite clauses as modifiers and supplements"

CowperKettle

Posted 2015-12-28T15:15:27.413

Reputation: 36 949

In your example I thought about something like I saw Pam who went home/who was going home. I get the meaning, but it's hard for me to explain. – Alejandro – 2015-12-28T16:59:58.633

@Subjunctive - do you mean this sentence reminds you of "I caught Pam stealing money"? With "stealing" linked to "caught"? – CowperKettle – 2015-12-28T19:24:34.547