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  • Writer's pictureGalina Blankenship

Subordination in English: Relative Clauses & Sentential Relative Clauses

Updated: Jun 4, 2023


Contents:



1. Introduction: Clause-Linking in English

2. Finite Clauses vs. Reduced Finite Clauses (Nonfinite Clauses)

3. Clause-Linking Strategies in English (Classification)

4. Finite Subordination in English: Four Main Types of Dependent Clauses in English

5. Finite Relative Clause

5.1. Relative (Adjective) Clauses

5.2. Essential vs. Nonessential Relative Clauses

5.3. Six Types of Relative Clauses by Grammatical Structure

5.4. Relative vs. Complement Clauses

5.5. Relative Clauses vs. It-Cleft Clauses

5.6. Inanimate vs. Animate Heads

5.7. Prepositions + Relative Pronouns

5.8. Whom vs. Who, Whose vs. Which

5.9. Whose ⟺ ... of Which

5.10. Proper Noun Heads

5.11. Formulaic, Literary & Academic Expressions

5.12. Where-Clauses for Both Space and Time

5.13. Expressing Time & Periods: When (Where) ⟺ At/ On/ In/ By Which

5.14. Expressing Methods & Means: Whereby ⟺ In Which

5.15. Expressing Abstract Temporal Concepts: Where ⟺ At/ In Which

5.16. Expressing Specific Moments in Times: At Which Point = Meanwhile, in the Meantime

5.17. Expressing Specific Moments in Time & Space: The Point Where vs. The Point When

5.18. Partitive Relative Clauses: Both of Whom ⟺ Both of Which

5.19. Complex Conjunctions with “Which”

5.20. Expressing Manner: Special Status of “Way”

6. Sentential Relative Clauses

6.1. Common Uses of Sentential Relative Clauses

6.2. “In Which Case” as a Discourse Connective

6.3. Sentential Relative Clauses as a Right-Branching Strategy

7. Anaphoric & Cataphoric Linking

8. Sentential Relative Clauses vs. Appositive Clauses

9, Sentential Relative Clauses vs. Relative Clauses

10. Formality Markers

11. Nonfinite Reduced Relative Clauses

Reduced from Subject Relative Clause

Subject-Postmodifying -ing Participle




1. Introduction: Clause-Linking in English


In English, to make sense, any sentence must have at least one independent (main) clause, consisting of a subject and a predicate (a verb + an object/complement), which embodies the core of any English sentence. Any clause consisting of one such core is a simple (independent) sentence:


Simple Sentence/ Independent Clause = Subject + Predicate


When a simple sentence as an independent (main) clause connects to another clause, the type of the resulting sentence depends on the type of the added clause.


If the added clause is:

  1. Independent, the resulting sentence is compound.

  2. Dependent, the resulting sentence is complex.

  3. Supplemental (parenthetical), the resulting sentence is supplementive.

The clause-linking strategies in English can thus be classified according to the syntactic (structural) and semantic (meaning-based) differences between the clauses within the sentence.


Rhetorically speaking, clauses are linked by either of these devices:

Parataxis (coordination) as independent, parallel, equal clauses (forming a compound sentence).

Hypotaxis (subordination) as dependent, nonparallel, unequal clauses (forming a complex sentence).

Parenthesis (supplementation) as parenthetical or equivalent constructions (forming a supplementive sentence).


A clause can also be linked either:

Asyndetically: without any conjunctions, as a juxtaposed clause.

Syndetically: with a coordinating or subordinating conjunction, as a coordinated or subordinate clause.

Polysyndetically: with multiple coordinating conjunctions.


As an overview, the table below summarizes the common patterns of linking constituents (words, phrases, or clauses) within a sentence:

ASYNDETON

(Ø conjunction)

SYNDETON

(1 conjunction)

POLYSYNDETON

(1+ conjunctions)

PARATAXIS

(Makes Parallel & Equal)

Asyndetic Parataxis

Juxtaposition


I love you; you love me.

The practice has a long, controversial history.

Syndetic Parataxis

Coordination


I love you, and you love me.

The practice has a long and controversial history.

I’ll take either a bus or a taxi.


Polysyndetic Parataxis

Coordination


I’ll either call out or bang on the door or blow my whistle.

HYPOTAXIS

(Makes Nonparallel & Unequal)

Asyndetic Hypotaxis

Juxtaposition


I am here should you need me.

I am here for the routine physical checkup.

She is expected later today.

Syndetic Hypotaxis

Subordination


If you're clever, you can do anything.

I knew that running meant dying.

Mary, who lives in New York, is coming to visit.


PARENTHESIS

(Makes Supplemental & Parenthetical)

Asyndetic Parenthesis

Juxtaposition


Gary Jones, then a student, wrote several bestsellers.

Emily, my wife, was waiting for me.

She said yeswould you believe it!—to Jim Cross from our school.

Syndetic Parenthesis

Quasi-Coordination


The United States of America, or America for short, is an empire in decline.

His explanation, that he couldn't see the car, is unsatisfactory.

The practice has a long, and controversial, history.


Juxtaposed, conjunction-less clause-linking of equal elements is rhetorically known as asyndetic parataxis, and it’s less common in English than syndetic parataxis—the style of linking clauses using coordinating conjunctions to produce syndetic compound sentences (connected with a coordinating conjunction and a comma, or a dash) or asyndetic compound sentences (connected using a semicolon or a colon, or a dash, without any conjunctions). English has a strong preference for the syndetic style.


Furthermore, asyndetic hypotaxis (connecting unequal elements through juxtaposition) describes the style of linking of hierarchically ordered, subordinate elements without any conjunction. Like in many other languages, English has a limited use of such constructions, which are typically used in formal context.


Finally, syndetic hypotaxis means using conjunctions for clause-linking characterized by subordination—by far the most common way of connecting clauses to produce complex sentences or compound-complex sentences.


Dependent clauses in English are structurally either finite (i.e., identical in form to main clauses) or reduced finite, i.e., nonfinite. Dependent finite clauses are typically structured as nominal, relative, or adverbial clauses. In their reduced nonfinite forms, English dependent clauses are used as verbal clauses, including gerunds, to-infinitives, present -ing and past -ed participial clauses, absolute, small, and verbless clauses. Although rarely used in speech, verbals are a staple of formal English writing.


The painting  "Solitude" by Frederick Leighton, depicting a young girl sitting and immersed into thoughts
"Solitude" by Frederick Leighton

2. Finite Clauses vs. Reduced Finite Clauses

(Nonfinite Clauses)



All clauses are either finite or nonfinite. While only finite clauses can be independent (and main), both finite and nonfinite clauses can be dependent (or subordinate). Nonfinite clauses can only be dependent.


A finite clause has an explicit subject and a finite (complete) verb: e.g., takes, took, can work, has worked, is writing, was written:


We can move in together | if you are being transferred here.

Main indep. clause: S. + V. Dependent if-clause: S. + V.

A nonfinite clause is a reduced finite clause with an implicit subject (shared with the main clause) and a nonfinite (incomplete) verb: e.g., to work, having worked, taken, knowing:


After being transferred here, | you can move in together with us.

Deped. -ing clause: [S.] + V. Main indent clause: S. + V.

[= After you are transferred here, you can move in together with us.]


There are also verbless clauses, which include sentences with the so-called absolute clauses (i.e., nonfinite clauses with their own subjects and predicatives instead of verbs) and reduced relative and adverbial clauses:


Although always helpful, | he was not much liked.

Deped. verbless cl.: [S.] + V. Main indent clause: S. + V.

[= Although he was always helpful, he was not much liked.]


While reduced relative clauses are used for modifying and/or distinguishing one noun from another, reduced adverbial clauses are used to express the relationship between the main and dependent clauses, including conditional, causal, instrumental, and temporal (i.e., whether the events depicted in the clauses are concurrent or sequential in time) relationship:


Jack being gone, she opened his letters. He paused, not wishing to boast.

[= Because Jack was gone, she opened his letters.] [= Because he did not wish to boast, he paused.]

absolute clause 🠢 reason adverbial clause -ing participial clause 🠢 reason adverbial clause

An essential -ing or -ed participle placed after a noun phrase identifies it, with the clause corresponding to an essential relative clause. If it is positioned differently, it becomes nonessential, corresponding to a nonessential adverbial clause and modifying the entire main clause:

Anyone following this advice could get in trouble. Jane watched, weeping, from her bed.

[= Anyone who follows this advice could get in trouble.] [= Jane watched, as she was weeping, from her bed.]

essential -ing participial clause 🠢 essential relative clause -ing participial clause (concurrent) 🠢 temporal adverbial clause

A verbless clause is ambiguous, as it may correspond to relative and adverbial clause:


Of course, said Alison, astonished. The boy nodded, pale and scared.

[= Of course, said Alison, who was astonished.] [= The boy, who was pale and scared, nodded.]

[= Of course, said Alison, even though she felt astonished.] verbless clause 🠢 nonessential relative clause
verbless clause 🠢 nonessential relative or concessive adverbial clause
 

3. Clause-Linking Strategies (Classification)


To reiterate, most English sentences consist of an independent clause linked through either of these clause-linking devices:

1. Parataxis (Coordination or Juxtaposition):


Adding a semantically independent, syntactically parallel, equal clause ⟶ compound sentence

  • Syndetic parataxis: Coordination with coordinating conjunctions (+ punctuation)

  • Asyndetic parataxis: Juxtaposition without any conjunctions (+ punctuation)

2. Hypotaxis (Subordination or Juxtaposition):


Adding a semantically and syntactically dependent, nonparallel, unequal clause ⟶ complex sentence

  • Syndetic hypotaxis: Subordination with subordinating conjunctions (+ punctuation)

  • Asyndetic hypotaxis: Juxtaposition without any conjunctions (+ punctuation)

3. Parenthesis (Supplementation, Apposition, Quasi-Coordination):


Adding a syntactically supplemental, parenthetical, or semantically equivalent structure ⟶ supplementive sentence

  • Anchored parenthesis: Equivalence or quasi-coordination (appositives) (+ punctuation)

  • Parenthetical supplementation: Loosely attached elements (comments, tags, inserts) (+ punctuation)

 

4. Finite Subordination in English: Four Main Types of Dependent Clauses in English



The table below provides an overview of the typical dependent clauses constructed with FINITE verbs and related subordinators used in English (with the multiple-use subordinators marked with asterisk*):




Here is the more detailed account of the use of relative clauses in English. Check my other post on the remaining causes-linking strategies in the English language.


 

5. Finite Relative Clause

 

5.1. Relative Clauses ↡



Integral (Essential) Clauses

MAIN CLAUSE + that + Sub-Clause


who where that

whom when

whose why

of, in, on, at, from, by, with, for ... + which

by, for, with ... + whom


This morning, I met with the student who called me yesterday.
The horse that is white costs thousands of dollars. Other horses are cheaper.

The news [that] you gave us is very odd.

A crystal is a piece of matter whose boundaries are naturally formed plane surfaces.

He was someone whom I had never seen before.

The speed at which everything moved felt strange.

He is a man for whom I have the greatest admiration.


 
Supplemental or Background (Nonessential) Clauses

MAIN CLAUSE + + which + Sub-Clause


who which where

whom when why

whose

of, in, on, at, from, by, with, for ... + which

by, for, with ... + whom


This morning I met with Anne Scott, who called me yesterday.
The horse, which was white, cost me thousands of dollars.

Algernon, whom I greatly admire, died last night.

The news, which spread like a plague, broke him.

The pot of gravy, which fell upon his foot, was boiling.

The thief opened the safe, by which time it had been emptied.

These are predators, for whom people could also be prey.

It was alleged that during the incident—at which more police arriveda black woman was assaulted.


 

5.2. Essential vs. Nonessential Relative Clauses


English relative clauses modify nouns, like adjectives. However, unlike adjectives, they are postmodifiers (i.e., they follow a noun or noun phrase they modify), which means that they can never start a sentence:


Love is friendship that has caught fire. Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel.

Mark Twain, Man’s Place in the Animal World

Not all those who wander are lost. How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Bram Stoker, Dracula

If the information provided by the relative clause is essential to the identification of the noun it modifies (the head), and if it cannot be omitted, no punctuation should be used. However, if a relative clause provides supplemental, parenthetical, or background (nonessential) information, and if it can be omitted without rendering the sentence unintelligible, it is enclosed by a pair of commas (dashes or parentheses).


Traditionally referred to as restrictive, essential relative clauses serve to identify, specify, classify, or define the head they modify. It is an integral element, causing no change in the pitch or intonation. A nonrestrictive, or nonessential, relative clause, however, is marked by a change in intonation and pitch as a supplemental element that is loosely integrated into the syntax of the main sentence. It typically provides either complementary, providing a background, reference detail about the head, or parenthetical information, providing a detail that needs to be highlighted.


Marking a relative clause as nonessential does not mean it’s not important; it is simply distinctive from the rest of the sentence. Nonessential relative clauses often provide newsworthy but backgrounded details about the head noun, which the author chooses to isolate—to signal a complementary comment or detail (enclosed by commas), a digressing de-emphasized comment or detail (enclosed by parentheses), or a divergent emphasized comment or detail (enclosed by dashes).


In speech, supplements are marked as such by their distinctive prosody: they are intonationally separate from the rest of the sentence with the characteristically low-key tone and pausing. Paradoxically, we use this distinctive intonational contour with the supplemental part—the lowered pitch—when we want to background (de-emphasize) a detail or, instead, to draw attention to a comment (by highlighting it), as any change in one’s intonation becomes noticeable.


Whether the head noun should be marked or not depends on the status of its specificity and definiteness, which can only be triggered by pragmatic considerations. In other words, isolating a relative clause as a comment within a sentence can only occur in an ongoing conversation or as within a text, with the head noun functioning as a backward-linking topic.


For example, the essential clause in the following examples functions as the specifier, definer, or classifier of the head noun, which by definition has to be nonspecific:


Students who have to take a lot of exams get too tired to relax.

nonspecific (zero article)

A student who has to take a lot of exams gets too tired to relax.

nonspecific, indefinite (a/an)

The student who has to take a lot of exams gets too tired to relax.

nonspecific, definite (the)

The students who have to take a lot of exams get too tired to relax.

nonspecific, definite (the)

What would contribute to marking the relative clause as nonessential is the use of a semantic detail that would convey the specificity of the head noun and the discursive nature of the context: for example, the use of past tense instead of present indefinite or the use of a demonstrative determiner with the head noun:


The students, who had to take a lot of exams, got too tired to relax.

specific, definite (the)

These students, who have to take a lot of exams, get too tired to relax.

specific, definite (the)

Whether we choose to emphasize or de-emphasize a constituent, by making it non-neutral, we create a different type of emphasis. And what we want to emphasize with a nonessential relative clause, especially the one that is medially positioned, is its special status as an interrupting aside loosely attached to the main clause, a moment of digression that we believe is important to the matter of the main clause.


While essential relative clauses can be characterized as identifying, defining, specifying, or classifying, nonessential relative clauses can be roughly separated into two main groups:


1. An interrupting relative clause that provides referential, background details about the head and markedly disrupts the flow of the main clause as a complementary or parenthetical aside comment.


2. A supplemental connective relative clause that functions as a narrative forwarder, added not to interrupt the main clause but to continue it. It may express the sequential event, or the result of the event described in the main clause. It can also be added as an afterthought, or as a sentential relative clause, which typically modifies the entire preceding clause.

For example:


Essential (specifying): The car that was standing in the road was stolen.

Nonessential (background): The car, which was standing in the road, was stolen.


Essential (classifying): Cars that cause pollution should be banned. [= Some cars pollute.]

Nonessential (background): Cars, which cause pollution, should be banned. [= All cars pollute.]


Essential (identifying): I waived to the man who was running next to me.

Nonessential (connective): I yelled to the man, who ran off. [= I yelled to the man, and he ran off.]


Essential (specifying): A movie that we saw was really scary.

Nonessential (background): Your movie, which we saw yesterday, was really scary.


Essential (defining): The program included a movie that we had already seen.

Nonessential (background): The program included the new Scorsese movie, which we had already seen.


As I said before, the distinction between essential and nonessential clauses reflects the semantic differences.


For example, compare the following sentences:


She loved to talk about her sister who lived in Paris and her younger brother. [= She has more than one sister.]

She loved to talk about her sister, who lived in Paris, and her younger brother. [= She has only one sister.]


He closed the door and handed his keys to the attendant, who was standing next.

[= There was only one attendant present.]


He closed the door and handed his keys to the attendant who was standing next.

[= There were other attendants around.]


The difference between essential and nonessential clauses can also be adverbial:


I wouldn't fly with an airline whose safety record is so poor.

[= I wouldn't fly with an airline if its safety record is so poor.]


I wouldn't fly with this airline, whose safety record is so poor.

[= I wouldn't fly with this airline because its safety record is so poor.]


 

5.3. Six Types of Relative Clauses

by Grammatical Structure



Essential and nonessential relative clauses can be classified by the grammatical function of their relative pronouns into six types:

  • Subject Relative Clauses, in which who, that, or which replaces the subject of the clause.

The visitor who/ that asked for help was from Japan.

The hurricane that struck the town destroyed several homes.

Last year’s hurricane, which destroyed many homes, cost us millions of dollars.


  • Direct Object Relative Clauses, in which who, whom, that, which, or zero pronoun replaces the object of the clause.

At the meeting, there were many participants whom/ that we did not know.

At the meeting, there were many participants we did not know.


Thank you for the letter of application that we received yesterday.

Thank you for the letter of application [that] we received yesterday.


Thank you for your letter of application, which we received yesterday.


  • Indirect Object Relative Clauses, in which who, whom, that, which, or zero pronoun replaces an indirect object following the preposition to or for. Two patterns are possible:

Everyone knew the culprit to whom the prosecutor was referring.

Everyone knew the culprit whom/ that /who the prosecutor was referring to.

Everyone knew the culprit [that] the prosecutor was referring to.


This was a job that he seemed well suited to.

This was a job [that] he seemed well suited to.


He loves his new job, to which he seemed well suited.

He loves his new job, which he seemed well suited to.


  • Oblique Object of the Preposition Relative Clauses, which have the same two patterns as indirect object clauses but may have a range of prepositions: at, on, in, under, for, about, with, etc.:

The girl with whom he went to the dance was my sister.

The girl whom/ that he went to the dance with was my sister.

The girl [that] he went to the dance with was my sister.


The bed on which/ where I slept once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.

The bed that I slept on once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.

The bed [that] I slept on once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.


  • Possessive Relative Clauses, in which the relative pronoun replaces an element that indicates possession. These clauses take two forms:

Possessive relative clauses introduced by whose, used especially but not exclusively for possessors that are human or otherwise animate.

Last week, I met a girl whose brother works in your law firm.

The author one of whose last three books Peter has reviewed is very famous.

Let ABC be a triangle whose sides are of equal length.


Possessive clauses introduced by of which, used with inanimate possessors. Three patterns are possible when of + which is part of an object noun phrase:

The reports of which the government prescribes the size are boring.

The reports which the government prescribes the size of are boring.

The reports the size of which the government prescribes are boring.


  • Object of Comparison Relative Clauses, in which who, whom, that, or which replaces a noun phrase following the comparative conjunction than.

This is the first person whom/ that/ who I happened to be taller than.

This is the first person [that] I happened to be taller than.


The sports car that the Alfa Romeo was faster than was a Porsche.

 

5.4. Relative vs. Complement Clauses


English dependent clauses (nominal content, complementary, relative, and adverbial clauses) use the same subordinating conjunctions, which can cause confusion. What often helps to distinguish between the clauses is the intonation contour or the punctuation pattern applied.


📍Punctuation is vital when it comes to appositional intonation. A text may contain enough context for the intended meaning to come through unambiguously, even if commas are not used correctly. It is possible, however, for the commas to be the sole source of information as to whether a clause is essential or not.


Punctuation also helps distinguish between relative and complement clauses:


The plan is that we should reconvene after lunch.

nominative predicative that-clause

I like his plan that we should reconvene after lunch.

complement that-clause

We questioned the plan that called for our reconvening after lunch.

relative clause (modifying the plan)

The plan, that we should reconvene after lunch, was questioned.

appositive that-clause
 

5.5. Relative Clauses vs. It-Cleft Clauses


💥 Don’t confuse relative clauses with it-clefts and it-cleft-type constructions! It-clefts are used to identify by pointing out something. As such, they can be used to emphasize proper nouns:


It-cleft (formal) (provides specific contrastive information): Relative clause (provides general information):

“Did you sell the table that Agatha gave us?” “I see we’ve sold something. What was it?”

“It was [the vase] [that Agatha gave us]—not the table.” “Yeah, it was [the vase that Agatha gave us].”

contrastive focus background focus

It was Jones that was injured. The reason that I can't go is that I don't have time.

it-cleft (formal) it-cleft variation: formal

It was Jones who was injured. The reason why I can't go is that I don't have time.

it-cleft (informal) it-cleft variation: informal
 

5.6. Inanimate vs. Animate Heads



When referring to nonhuman (inanimate) entities (animals, things, and ideas), we can use either that in essential clauses or which in nonessential clauses. When referring to humans, we can use either that or who in essential or who in nonessential clauses (never which).


In other words, we can use the multi-purpose that in essential relative clauses with both human and nonhuman headwords.


Animate: All students who are members of the club will be leaving for the trip on Friday.

All students that are members of the club will be leaving for the trip on Friday.

Our students, who are members of the club, will be supervising the trip on Friday.


Inanimate: All schools that are members of the club will be leaving for the trip on Friday.

Our school, which is a member of the club, will be supervising the trip on Friday.


However, in essential clauses with nonhuman heads, we can use which when it is preceded by a preposition:


The situation in which we find ourselves is alarming.

This is especially true for the American English. In British English, writers and editors are less discriminative about the distinction between that and which.

 

5.7. Prepositions + Relative Pronouns


Although English nouns are not inflected according to their position in a sentence anymore, English personal and relative pronouns, when referring to human beings, are still inflected by the nominative, objective, and possessive cases, and other cases triggered by such prepositions as at, by, for, in, to:


Nominative (Subject) Genitive (Possessor) Accusative (Object) Dative (Indirect Object)

I my (to see) me (to give to) me

you your (to see) you (to give to) you

he, she his, her (to see) him, her (to give to) him, her

we our (to see) us (to give to) us

they their (to see) them (to give to) them


it its (to see) it (to give to) it

who whose (to see) whom (to give to) whom

which of which (to see) which (to give to) which

 

5.8. Whom vs. Who, Whose vs. Which



🎵 Like in other languages, following the prescriptive grammar guidelines creates a formal effect. So, when it comes to the inflection of the pronoun who, English speakers often dismiss the correct use of the objective whom. The distinction between who and whom aligns with the stylistic preference to avoid stranded (postposed) prepositions, which tends to signal the “prestige” English:


I'll introduce you to my friend Robert, with whom I share an apartment. (very formal)

I'll introduce you to the man with whom I share an apartment. (very formal)

I'll introduce you to my friend Robert, whom I share an apartment with. (neutrall)

I'll introduce you to my friend Robert, who I share an apartment with. (informal)


When a preposition is needed with such relative pronouns as whom (who), which, or whose, we usually put it before the relative pronoun in formal styles, including academic writing and journalism:


The valley in which the town lies is heavily polluted.

The rate at which a material heats up depends on its chemical composition.

I now turn to Freud, from whose work the following quotation is taken.


Putting the preposition at the end of the clause makes it less formal, which is common in spoken English:


I now turn to Freud, whose work the following quotation is taken from.

I'll introduce you to the man whom I share an apartment with.

I'll introduce you to the man that/who I share an apartment with.


Not all prepositions can be postposed; those should not be separated from their related pronouns. Such patterns are very common inn academic English:


There are 80 teachers in the Physics Department, among whom are 24 professors.

This study enrolled 2126 children, of whom 50.7% were male.

 

5.9. Whose ⟺ ... of Which


The possessive pronoun whose usually relates to a person, but it can also be used to mark possessive relations with collective entities, such as corporations, government agencies, clubs, societies, and committees especially in news reporting:


The bid is being resisted by Pearl Group, whose Chairman, Einion Holland, has described the offer as “derisory.”

We assumed that the U.S. Army was blocking off La Boca from the Panama Defense Force, whose local headquarters is only about 300 yards from our house.


“Well, there is a choice,” says Graham Poole, whose grandfather started the shop in 1895.


Moreover, whose can also mark genitive relationships with inanimate, abstract nouns, commonly used in academic prose:


There is a way of proceeding in conceptual matters whose method is to define away any inconvenient difficulty.

He might argue that this consensus provides an abstract convention whose implicit extension includes the proposition.


Otherwise, we should replace whose with … of which when writing about inanimate entities:


The others were playing a game the rules of which I couldn't understand.

We are introducing a new system, the aim of which is to reduce costs.


An alternative way of introducing a relative clause with of which is to front only the prepositional phrase of which, leaving the rest of the noun phrase to follow it in its normal position in the relative clause:


He joined a dining-club of which the motto was, The Whole, The Good, and The Beautiful.


This extends to other prepositions as well, e.g., at, by, for, in, to :


I went to the floor to which I had been directed.

I went to the tenth floor, to which I had been directed.


A genitive relation can also be expressed by using a postmodifying prepositional phrase + with:


We remember the enthusiasm with which we went to vote.

The rage with which they demand “justice” is terrifying.


🎵 In academic writing whose is used to talk about a wide variety of belonging to relationships:


Students have to solve problems whose solutions require a knowledge of calculus.

 

5.10. Proper Noun Heads



By definition, proper nouns semantically trigger nonessential relative clauses:


The award was given to the student whose solution was unique.

The award was given to Julia Belch, whose solution was unique.


I plan to visit the town where I used to live.

I plan to stop off in London, where I used to live.

 

5.11. Formulaic, Literary & Academic Expressions



We can begin relative and other clauses with when (referring to time), whereby (referring to a method or means), and where (to specify a location).


🎵 In formal, academic English, especially when modifying indefinite, abstract, or conceptual words, the construction preposition + which can often be used instead of these:


when, where, whereby ⟺ [at, in, on, by … ] + which


Moreover, English uses this construction with a number of formulaic and literary relative expressions, which are mostly essential. For example, in sentences that describe a certain place, room, or street, the describing relative clause can start with where, which in turn can be replaced with in which:


place ⇘

room where in which

street ⇗


… the place where they work … the place in which they work

… the room where I did my homework … the room in which I did my homework

… the street where my mother had lived … the street in which my mother had lived


🎵 Where and in which have different levels of formality, the latter being more formal.

 

5.12. Where-Clauses for Both Space and Time



🤔 In most registers, the pronoun where is by far the most common relativizer used to modify adverbial-type relative clauses with such heads as case, condition, example, situation, system, etc.


Some of them can occur with where as well as when, e.g., case(s) in academic texts:


Later in this chapter, we will introduce cases where consumer complaints have resulted in changes in the law.

The contrastive nature of linguistic categories is clear in cases where the category label contains two words.

One of the main applications of the scan score is in difficult cases when accurate estimation of disease activity will have important therapeutic implications.


🎵 In more formal contexts, however, use in which instead:


Later in this chapter, we will introduce cases in which consumer complaints have resulted in changes in the law.

 

5.13. Expressing Time & Periods:

When (Where)At/ On/ In/ By Which


Relative clauses with the words indicating time and periods of time, can be used with when as well as which + corresponding preposition:


time ⟶ at which

day ⇘ ⟶ on which

when

month ⇗

year ⟶ in which

era


This is a time when nationalities cease to exist. ⟹ This is a time at which nationalities cease to exist.

The Day When a Man Dies” ⟹ “The Day on Which a Man Dies”

This is the year when the profits should start. Since the year in which you were born?

… during the period when it was in operation ⟹ … during the period in which it was in operation



Essential:

Like most things in the Internet age in which we live, one thing led to another, and I now run the largest source repository in the world, called “Help A Reporter Out.”

[Internet == this, our: The head age is defined by the definite article the, not the qualifying modifier Internet.]


Nonessential:

Even in the internet age, in which images of humanity’s greatest cruelties are available at the click of a button, the photos emerging from Syria of gas victims are truly shocking.

[= Internet is an identifying modifier.]

 

5.14. Expressing Methods & Means:

WherebyIn Which


Whereby is a very useful word, as it can be used with a variety of concepts, such as arrangement or system, meaning “by which, by the help of which, in accordance with which”.


arrangement

system ⇘

requirement

whereby in which

mechanism

circumstance ⇗

agreement

🎵 Whereby matches in which in the level of formality so they can be used interchangeably:


Crédit Mobilier was part of a complex arrangement whereby a few men contracted with themselves or assignees for the construction of the railroad.

He hopes to negotiate an arrangement whereby the group will be able to pay the city a higher price over several years.


The same relative clause construction can introduce a nonessential, parenthetical comment. For example:


As it happens, this arrangementwhereby Baucus negotiates the bill and Obama keeps his distanceis politically advantageous to the president too.


The difference between the three heads of the relative clauses—namely, a complex arrangement, an arrangement, and this arrangement—is semantical. The latter’s contextual specificity (signaled by the definite determiner this) means that it does not need to be identified by the provided comment.


In addition to using a specifying, definite determiner (the, this, my, etc.) with the headword, the markers that can trigger parenthetical postmodification also include the use of an identifying, and not merely qualifying, modifier(s) with the headword, or the headword being a proper name.


For example, in the examples below, the modifiers contractual and franchise of the headword arrangement are identifying or pointing out, rendering its identification specific despite the use of an indefinite article. The modifier complex used in the example above is simply descriptive.


Salary sacrifice is a contractual arrangement, whereby an employee gives up the right to receive part of their wage.

The league is a franchise arrangement, whereby owners pay the cricket board a one-off royalty for their teams.


We can think of such sentences as consisting of two separate sentences, each having their own focus positions and with the second clause having the effect of a supplemental comment, an afterthought. Any parenthetical constituent (e.g., a relative clause), which interrupts the flow of the main clause without significantly interfering with its meaning, triggers the so-called appositional intonation (parenthesizing intonation) .

 

5.15. Expressing Abstract Temporal Concepts:

WhereAt/ In Which



🎵 When it comes to more abstract notions, the use of such relative adverbs as the place where, should be limited to the colloquial use. In writing, using the more formal in which can be more appropriate.


course

cycle ⇘

moment at which

point

stage where

situation ⇗ in which

circumstance



“Well, in the situation where I am, that's probably happening,” Beltran said.

informal

This is the situation in which Europe finds itself today.

formal

“I'm at the stage where I understand things.”

informal

This is also the stage at which many developmental defects originate.

formal

In the month when his new film premiered, he had to travel to India.

This led to a match at the Royal Rumble later in the month, in which Edge defeated Michaels.

 

5.16. Expressing Specific Moments in Times:

At Which Point = Meanwhile, in the Meantime



Nonessential which-clauses can be ambiguous, capable of having a wider scope than any other relative clause. For example, in this sentence at which-clause marks the boundary between the event in the first clause and the summative description of the results of that event


Four of the starters had decided to retire at this point, at which time Moitessier was 1100 nautical miles east of Cape Town, Knox-Johnston was 4000 nautical miles ahead in the middle of the Great Australian Bight, and Tetley was just nearing Trindade.


Again, it’d help to analyze this sentence as consisting of two separate clauses, with the second clause standing somewhat in apposition, or parallel, to the preceding one. The first clause situates us at a very specific moment in history, introducing the general conclusion of the event described, then listing the particulars of the event.


The supplemental and particularizing nature of the second clause requires echoing-type discourse linking. In fact, the connective at which time here very much resembles a conjunctive adverb used as a discourse connective between two independent clauses.


Another option is … at which point:

I was told my work was not good enough, at which point I decided to get another job.


And a slightly different variant, by which time:

They remain in the pouch for some seven weeks, by which time they are about 10 cm long.

 

5.17. Expressing Specific Moments in Time & Space:

The Point Where vs. The Point When



The appropriate choice of the relative adverb is not always clear, and it often depends on the context. Yes, even the context can be ambiguous. For example, the notion point can refer to both space and time, or can be used with both where and when.


According to the Leipzig Corpora Collection, the incidence of the collocation a point + where (41,334) is much higher than either a point + at which (4,021), a point + that (4,219), or a point + when (1,386):


It got to the point where journalists would jam the door open with their foot.

And quite often, he caught himself at a point whence he was looking down on some object or person, trying anxiously to recall them out of the deep darkness of the past.


There comes a point where “better is the enemy of good enough.”

Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I am compelled to abandon this method.

We're now at a point, however, where we can be frank about it.

At a point where the garden wall joined the wall of the mortuary several bricks were missing.


The next three collocations are very close to each other in terms of incidence:


There comes a point when a dream becomes reality.

The market is probably at a point that represents fair value.

All too often there comes a point at which expectations shrink.

 

5.18. Partitive Relative Clauses:

Both of WhomBoth of Which



English determiners, qualifiers, numerals, superlative adjectives, etc., can be used as partitive constituents to describe a part or quantity of something.


To convey partitivity, English uses ... of which, ... of whom, or ... of whose:


all, many, each

part, some, most ⇘

neither, none of which

one, two, half of whose

the first, a third ⇗ of whom

the best, the biggest


Lotta was able to switch between German and Russian, both of which she spoke fluently.

Historians give two answers, neither of which can be right.

In total, Torres had only three attempts on goal, two of which were off target.

Seventy homeopaths were randomised, of whom 50 completed the trial.

Behind them is the authority of the U. N., all of whose members are “peace-loving,” and some of whose members have just engaged in war.

 

5.19. Complex Conjunctions with “Which


Which can occur in a wide range of lexical bundles with different head nouns, used as subordinating conjunctions, particularly in academic prose:


the extent to which the frequency with which

the degree to which means/ ways/ process by which


The extent to which corporations are able to exercise market power is, in large part, determined by political decisions.

Paul Krugman, Challenging the Oligarchy

The process by which they culture the genes and associated tissue are uncertain and extremely mutagenic.

 

5.20. Expressing Manner: Special Status of “Way”



While place and time adverbials correspond to the use of where and when, there is no relative adverb marking manner, way, or rather it is Ø (zero), except for in which.


The head way as a head noun that is strongly associated with manner adverbials. It is many times more common as a head noun—in all registers—than any other form.


This is why in any register and context, including in academic prose, with its general preference for preposition + which, a manner adverbial gap is commonly either marked by the relativizer sequence in which or dropped altogether:


The way in which this happens gives important information on the inner organization.

The way this happens gives important information on the inner organization.

zero relative adverb

It is not the only way in which a person can be brought before a court.

It is not the only way a person can be brought before a court.

zero relative adverb

He was sorry about the way in which it had ended.

He was sorry about the way it had ended.

zero relative adverb

Relative clauses with the head nouns time also commonly occur with the preposition omitted:


The activity checklist is completed each time the activity changes.

 

6. Sentential Relative Clauses ↡



A special case of relative clauses is a sentential relative clause, which refers back to the whole or to a part of a previous clause, and not just the preceding word as with regular relative clauses.


A sentential relative clause is usually introduced by the relative pronoun which (rarely, what). In speech, it is signaled with falling intonation and pause(s), while in writing, we mark it with punctuation.


A sentential relative clause is often used in a sentence as:

  • Supplemental modifying clause, added as an afterthought, or

  • Parenthetical insert, added as an aside.

For example:

The twins don't look alike, which puzzles me.


The sentential relative clause which puzzles me modifies the entire preceding clause (underlined).

 

6.1. Common Uses of Sentential Relative Clauses



A which-clause is often used to express a supplemental, delayed speaker’s comment, added at the end of the sentence as an afterthought:


The twins don't look alike, which puzzles me.

[The twins don't look alike, and this puzzles me.]


The twins don't look alike, which puzzles me.

[The twins don't look alike—something that puzzles me.]


A Bush speech gives only the upliftwhich suggests that there is no strategy beyond it.

The New Yorker

In another example bellow, Mr. Trump, remaining true to his “peacock” colors, uses a sentential elative clause to enumerate (or list) his grandiose plans. To paraphrase, we can drop the pronoun which altogether, or substitute it with an appositional connective, such as namely, specifically, or that is, and we’ll get a sentence formed as an appositive list:


I’ll probably go back to doing what I’ve been doing for the last long period of time, which is creating jobs, building projects—beautiful projects, iconic projects.

[= I’ll probably go back to doing what I’ve been doing for the last long period of time: creating jobs, building projects—beautiful projects, iconic projects.]

From Donald Trump’s Interview, when he was asked what he’d do if he wasn’t elected president, gq.com, Nov. 25, 2015
 

6.2. “In Which Case” as a Discourse Connective



Thanks to its explicit backward linking, which-clause unambiguously signals a close connection to the immediately preceding text, which is why sentences with delayed which-clauses can be emphatically fragmented, especially in speech:


The twins don't look alike. Which puzzles me.

The hotel is very expensive. Which is a pity.


Some which-clauses have become lexicalized:


Which brings me to my final point.

Which explains why so few M.I.T. grads reach the majors.


Which is why we cannot do it!

Which means that we are screwed, pardon my French.


These examples clearly show that the sentence-initial which is a great discourse connective. Its strong rhetorical and discursive nature is reflected in the punctuation choices by the New Yorker editors: if marked by comma(s), the sentence-initial in which case is interpreted and used as a transitional expression linking to the previous discourse:


In which case, what's the real issue? [= Then what's the real issue?]

The New York Times

Usually the latter is the case, in which case, fine.

"Downpaging" by Ian Frazier, The New Yorker

Oh, forget the HP or Dell or any other tablet. This isn't what it is about anymore. This is about OS systems for devices as uses and user desires converge. Upon which, the storefronts are the real market. iTunes, iBooks, iApps, these are where companies can grab footholds.

“iYawn: Apple, Media and Fans Miss Boa”t by B.D. Gallof, The Huffington Post

The lack of enclosing or any punctuation helps distinguish the discourse connective from an integral wh-question or a sentence fragment:


In which case you and Senor Regan will pay for the good jail wall?” the Jefe demanded …

Jack London, Hearts of Three

I do those unless I'm away, in which case I'll leave clear instructions.

Jojo Moyes, Me Before You

In which case it's really annoying.

The Guardian
 

6.3. Sentential Relative Clauses as a Right-Branching Strategy



Although rarely used in speech (except in fragments), sentential relative clauses can be very helpful in writing, allowing to expand a sentence as further to the right as possible. It is the ultimate right-branching device, which is the dominant style of clause-linking in English.


Overall, sentential relative clauses are used to add extra information and/or to convey that one event happened after another, using which + preposition + noun, which can be time, point, case, event, etc.:


I was told my work was not good enough, at which point I decided to get another job.

Sometimes you may feel too weak to cope with things, in which case do them as soon as it is convenient.


“This would be a good or bad thing, depending on which side you're on,” he said.

New York Times

Conversely, the tech bubble became obvious only in 1999—by which time it was already enormous.

The New York Times

Power, however, still has to be wielded to prevent counterrevolution and to facilitate the transition to communism, at which stage coercion will no longer be necessary.

Encyclopedia Britannica
 

7. Anaphoric & Cataphoric Linking


A sentential elative clause is a great way to combine in one sentence reporting about a situation and commenting on it by linking to the preceding clause, i.e., by backward-linking. Such structure of linking is called anaphoric.


For example, in the sentences below, the anaphoric which-comment clauses modify their preceding clauses:


These computers need only tiny amounts of power, which means that they will run on small batteries.

I never met Brando again, which was a pity.

We are out of water, which sucks.


Moreover, anaphoric linking is observed in sentential relative clauses that combine the pronoun which with prepositions, conjunctions, and adverbials, thus widening the clause-linking and clause-expanding options:


“See you in a bit,” I said, to which he gave that silent, wistful nod of his.

André Aciman, Find Me

They were given 1 minute to explore the room, following which the mirror was uncovered.


Then on to Corinth, after which they returned to Athens.

The New Yorker

In the examples so far, the position of a sentential elative clause has been invariably closing (final), i.e., supplementary or postponed as afterthoughts. In the example below, however, the anaphoric comment which-clause, which was bad, is positioned medially as an aside that interrupts the main clause and modifies the preceding part of the clause:


She was late, which was bad, but what was worse, she didn't apologize.


Occasionally, a sentential relative clause can also be used cataphorically, linking forward to the clause that follows after the sentential relative clause:


Change of meaning may also be effected by means of figurative language or, which is a similar process, the use of a concrete term for an abstract conception.


Here, the which-clause is used cataphorically as a “preemptive” aside comment, which is why it’s formatted as a parenthetical insert signaled by enclosing commas.

 

8. Sentential Relative Clauses vs. Appositive Clauses



As I showed before, a sentential relative clause can be paraphrased as an appositive structure by merely semi-juxtaposing constituents that are equivalent but not equal, meaning that they cannot be coordinated (since no coordinating conjunctions can be inserted).


Apposition is a special style of clause-linking based on juxtaposition and quasi-coordination of constituents that refer to the same nominal head. One of the two constituents in apposition, typically the second one, renames, restates, reformulates, or specifies in more explicit terms.


Apposition is a literary, journalistic, often emphatic, and dramatic style, which is almost exclusively used in writing. Appositive structures can be produced by reducing other main syntactic structures, with an added rhetoric flavor.


For example, by simply replacing the summarizing word decision with which, we can produce a sentential relative clause:


I finally volunteered to go first, a decision I quickly came to regret.

I finally volunteered to go first, a decision [that] I quickly came to regret.

[= I finally volunteered to go first, which I quickly came to regret.]

 

9. Sentential Relative Clauses vs. Relative Clauses


By modifying an entire or a part of a clause, a sentential relative clause is inherently ambiguous, for it’s not always clear which part of the sentence it modifies. Which means that a sentential relative clause can be easily confused with a relative clause, the latter modifying only the immediately preceding constituent and not the entire sentence or a part of such sentence.


For example, compare with the following regular relative sentences (with the modified head being underlined):


The nature of probability is a long-standing philosophical problem, to which scientists also need an answer.

Under animal is rational animal, under which is man.


In the next example, however, it may take you a moment to understand Mark Twain’s clever joke, playing with the ambiguity of sentential relative clauses:


You ought never to knock your little sisters down with a club. It is better to use a cat, which is soft.

Mark Twain, “Advice for Good Little Boys,” San Francisco Youth’s Companion

😉 Note how the head of the clause explains the punctuation: it’s not the cat that is soft but using the cat.


As both types of relative clauses are introduced by the same which-clause, we depend on the context to correctly interpret a sentence with a parenthetical which-clause, which is not always clear.


Like in these examples, where it is not clear which part of the preceding clause the which-clause modifies:


We now have to specify a particular observer (who has been me in the above discussion, but it could have been you or anyone else, or indeed the whole human race taken together), with respect to which we can carve up the universal state vector as described above; and we have to specify a particular experience state of that observer.


Observing the solution (2) involves φ̈, which seems a requirement that is a bit stronger to the initial conditions.

The problem is that this possibility is inconsistent with nihilism, which seems to imply that a material world must contain material simples.

 

9.1. since/from whenwhence, whereupon


In fiction, as a literary device, sentential relative clauses may also be introduced by when if it’s preceded by the preposition since or from to denote the successiveness in time of the actions described in the clauses. The more formal equivalents of when are whence or whereupon (after which, in consequence):


Students under suspicion were examined, whereupon all but one denied any guilt.

The Times Literary Supplement

They had never forgotten old Jolyon's visit, since when he had not once been to see them

John Galsworthy, The Man of Property

I asked her if it was better than the Edible Tsunami, from when I was interested in edible meteorological events.

Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When can also combine with until to denote for as long as:


Coincident nodes were tied together with a constraint relation and remained joined, until when the maximum interlaminar stresses was reached.


🎭 Again, these structures are used mainly in formal, literary, and journalist writing.

 

10. Formality Markers



🎵 After a preposition, we usually use whom rather than who in formal register:


Is it right that politicians should make important decisions without consulting the public to whom they are accountable?

formal

As it happens, of which is more formal than whose:


The spill was massive, whose effects are still being felt. The school that she is head of is closing.

neutral neutral

The spill was massive, the effects of which are still being felt. The school of which she is head is closing.

formal formal

In less formal English, the preposition can be postponed to the end of the relative clause: called stranded preposition effect. The presence of a stranded preposition reduces the formality level of the text. If we try to show it on the scale from formal to informal, we'll get these results:

FORMAL

Ann arrow

INFORMAL

The office to which Juan took us was filled with books.

The office that Juan took us to was filled with books.

T̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶f̶i̶c̶e̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶J̶u̶a̶n̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶u̶s̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ ̶f̶i̶l̶l̶e̶d̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶b̶o̶o̶k̶s̶.̶

The office where Juan took us was filled with books.

That’s her friend with whom she lives.

That’s her friend whom she lives with.

That’s her friend that she lives with.

That’s her friend who she lives with.


 

11. Nonfinite Reduced Relative Clauses



In English, the vital aspect of nonfinite structures (verbals) is that they are reduced forms of English finite constructions. As reduced or modified forms of verbs, verbals can replace other parts of speech in sentences.


Reduced nonfinite forms are often used by fiction writers, reporters, and journalists. Verbals are a staple of the written language.


The major types of nonfinite clauses include:

  1. Gerund Clauses

  2. Fused Participle Clauses

  3. To-Infinitival Clause

  4. Bare Infinitival Clauses

  5. Present -ing Participles

  6. Past -ed Participial Clauses

  7. Absolute Clause

  8. Small Clauses

  9. Verbless Clauses

Just as finite relative clauses, the reduced relative clauses function as postmodifiers of their noun heads, albeit freer in their nature.

 

Nonfinite structures can be ambiguous, meaning that they can share the characteristics of relative as well as adverbial clauses. However, the following two nonfinite constructions are clearly reduced forms of finite relative clauses:


Reduced from Subject Relative Clause


Subject-Postmodifying -ing Participle:

A shark weighing over 400 pounds washed up on the beach.

[= A shark that weighed over 400 pounds washed up on the beach.]

essential

The guy standing next to Fred is a famous poet.

[= The guy who is standing next to Fred is a famous poet.]

essential

The men,