Several of my Korean students (students from other countries have never made this error) were unable to reduce adverb clauses into adverbial phrases because of a noun clause as the main clause.

The directions were to combine the sentences and reduce them if possible.

Example:

I graduated from college. Afterward, the only thing I did was look for a job.

Combination and Reduction:

After graduating from college, the first thing I did was look for a job.

What my Korean students wrote was only a combination without a reduction:

After I graduated from college, the only thing I did was look for a job.

Since in the noun clause [the only thing I did] is the subject, this is why the students thought there were two different subjects ["I" and "the only thing I did"], but I could not explain clearly why the reduction was possible.

Any help is appreciated.
1 2
I think this common sort of reduction is possible only because of common sense (which plays a greater part in natural language than many of us like to think). Although these are extremely common and completely overlooked by native speakers – unless they lead to humorous interpretations – strictly speaking, your students have studied the grammar well and are correct. And you must admit that there is nothing wrong with their combination of the sentences. Or you could get them to combine in a more sophisticated manner: After graduating from college, I looked for a job the very first thing.
Hi,

Try to put the possessive pronoun 'my' before 'graduating' and explain that the adjectival 'my' implies the subject 'I'.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
AnonymousExample:
I graduated from college. Afterward, the only thing I did was look for a job.
Combination and Reduction:
After graduating from college, the first thing I did was look for a job.
I cannot figure out for the life of me why the first thing is in a reduction of the only thing. The two are completely different conceptually.

AnonymousWhat my Korean students wrote was only a combination without a reduction
I think the answer is simple. They were not given enough practice changing sentences like this.

AnonymousSince in the noun clause [the only thing I did] is the subject, this is why the students thought there were two different subjects ["I" and "the only thing I did"]
I think the students were right. There are two different subjects, at least on the surface. This is a cleft-like constuction derived from a more basic sentence, namely, I looked for a job, in which the subject is I, the same as in the adverbial they are to reduce. Apparently in these reductions, the sameness of subject can be a sameness of a deeper subject than is necessarily seen on the surface of the sentence.

You might draw your students' attention to such constructions as these:

What I did was / All I did was / The only thing I did was / The first thing I did was / The last thing I did was

They may need to practice easier reductions like these before moving on to more complex cases:

When you write an essay, the first thing you should do is make an outline.

When writing an essay, the first thing ...

Before she begins to sing, all she does is take a deep breath.

Before beginning to sing, all she does ...

After she had run around town shopping all day, the last thing Sharon wanted to do was go jogging.

After having run around town shopping all day, the last thing ...

CJ
AnonymousAny help is appreciated.
What you call "reduction" is commonly known as using a clause equivalent in Scandinavia. I hope you don't mind that I use that term. Clause equivalents are to some extent grammatically logical in English. As there are numerous types of clause equivalents, and not all of them behave in the same way grammatically, I'll just deal with temporal clause equivalents involving after.

Typically, the main clause and the subordinate temporal clause of a sentence have the same subject. There are usually three options.

After he had written the letter, he went to bed.

After writing the letter, he went to bed.

After having written the letter, he went to bed.

Having written the letter, he went to bed.

The subject need not be exactly the same word:

After John had written the letter, he went to bed.

After writing the letter, John went to bed.

Temporal clause equivalents containing after are usually incorrect or extremely awkward if the clauses don't have the same subject:

After John had written the letter, his mother asked him to go to bed.

*After John writing the letter, his mother asked him to go to bed.

CB
Cool BreezeTemporal clause equivalents containing after are usually incorrect or extremely awkward if the clauses don't have the same subject:
After John had written the letter, his mother asked him to go to bed.
*After John writing the letter, his mother asked him to go to bed.
And yet ... Emotion: thinking

John having written the letter, his mother asked him to go to bed.

Does the "his" sanction the use of this pattern perhaps? That is, the main clause does have at least an oblique reference to John.

CJ
Try out our live chat room.
CalifJimDoes the "his" sanction the use of this pattern perhaps? That is, the main clause does have at least an oblique reference to John.
Very good, Jim! English works in mysterious ways. It's just plain impossible to have and know rules for everything.

CB
Yes, I realize that it is correct. However, the Azar chapter did not give examples as this one, so while they are correct, the goal of that activity was to reduce the sentences.

The Korean students came to the conclusion of "No reduction possible" because the subject of the second clause is "the first thing..." which is not the same subject as "I". (3 students total)

The rest of the class (non-korean students) correctly reduced combined and reduced the sentences into: After becoming a citizen, the first thing I did was register to vote.

Are both answers possible? Should I opt for a more clear example sentence?

Is "no reduction possible" correct?

Thank you for the feedback Emotion: smile
Apologies, everyone. I just sent out a post with an entire different example. Please ignore the previous one.

[Edited by mod at the request of the poster.]
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Show more