View Poll Results: A suitcase______is useless.

Voters
21. This poll is closed
  • a. which has no handles

    7 33.33%
  • b. that has no handles

    14 66.67%
Results 1 to 6 of 6
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    12,971
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default "which" as the head of a restrictive clause

    I recently came across a definition for "which" that said (and I paraphrase) which can be used to introduce a restrictive clause. The example provided, see below, was cited from Oxford English:

    Restrictive A suitcase which has no handles is useless. (note, no commas)

    Non-Restrictive A suitcase, which has no handles, is useless. (note, commas)

    The argument for "which" sans commas (Restrictive use) is this: if we take away the 'which has no handles' bit, the resulting bit is nonsense:

    A suitcase is useless.

    My question is this, if which is used to head a restrictive clause, then what's the difference between A and B below?

    A. A suitcase which has no handles is useless.
    B. A suitcase that has no handles is useless.

    Uhm, is stress the key? The same person who provided the definition/examples also added that which is stressed and that that is unstressed, so speakers tend to use 'which' restrictively as a means of adding stress.

    Huh?

    Non-Oxford English speaka.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Philippines
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    43,087
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    In BE, which can be used in a restrictive or a non-restrictive clause, but that can only be used in a restrictive clause. To me, there's no difference between your examples a&b. The stress would be dependent on context and intended meaning, not automatic. To distinguish between which + restrive\non-restrictive clause in speech would be done by a short pause or lower stress to show it's non-essential with a non-restrictive clause.

    I understand the position in AE is different and, I presume, Canadian english follows the AE pattern.

  3. #3
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Posts
    16,571
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I agree with Tdol that both example sentences mean the same thing. Thus, I choose either. :wink:

    By the way, in the second example sentence from Oxford, the which clause acts as an appositive phrase.

    A suitcase, which has no handles, is useless.
    The phrase defines suitcase (incorrectly, I might add). That sentence is similar in nature to:

    • A chicken, which has short wings, cannot fly.


    Interesting, huh?

    :)

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Philippines
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    43,087
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    You're right, Ron; "A suitcase, which has no handles, is useless" is a weird sentence.

  5. #5
    jwschang Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    In BE, which can be used in a restrictive or a non-restrictive clause, but that can only be used in a restrictive clause. To me, there's no difference between your examples a&b. The stress would be dependent on context and intended meaning, not automatic. To distinguish between which + restrive\non-restrictive clause in speech would be done by a short pause or lower stress to show it's non-essential with a non-restrictive clause.

    I understand the position in AE is different and, I presume, Canadian english follows the AE pattern.
    AE, as I know it, almost always uses THAT as a relative pronoun (restrictive or otherwise). BE tends to make a distinction between the two: THAT is commonly used in a restrictive sense; WHICH is used in an informative sense. E.g.,
    (1) A suitcase that has no handles....
    (2) The hill, which rises above the surrounding country.....

  6. #6
    jwschang Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    You're right, Ron; "A suitcase, which has no handles, is useless" is a weird sentence.
    If I may add further:
    1. THAT is usually used with the indefinite article A/An, in order to restrict or define what was originally indefinite.
    2. WHICH tends to be used with the definite article The, to add more information to something already identified.

Similar Threads

  1. We can reduce adverb clauses to adverb phrases. Why?
    By Steven D in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 48
    Last Post: 23-Sep-2004, 14:42
  2. Conditional Clause
    By Jesse Huang in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 30-Jul-2004, 07:11
  3. where is the subjective clause?
    By jiang in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 17-Apr-2004, 07:11
  4. Relative clause
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 11-Apr-2004, 15:35

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •