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  1. #1
    uktous is offline Senior Member
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    Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Hi,

    Question:

    Are the which clauses below relative clauses?

    Sentence:
    Mary told a story, which made me laugh.
    Mary told a story, which was very funny.
    Mary told me a story which made me laugh.
    Mary told me a story which was very funny.




    Thanks

  2. #2
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by uktous View Post
    Hi,

    Question:
    Are the which clauses below relative clauses?

    Sentence:
    Mary told a story, which made me laugh.
    Mary told a story, which was very funny.
    Mary told me a story which made me laugh.
    Mary told me a story which was very funny.




    Thanks
    NOT A TEACHER.

    "Mary told me a story, which made me laugh." Mary's telling you a story made you laugh, but not the story itself.

    "Mary told me a story which made me laugh." The story Mary told you made you laugh.

    I'm guessing the second sentence reflects the intended meaning, and if I'm right, I'd suggest you change "which" to "that."

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Mary told a story, which made me laugh.
    Mary told a story, which was very funny.
    Mary told me a story which made me laugh.
    Mary told me a story which was very funny.

    The first two which-clauses are non-defining (non-restrictive or non-identifying) relative clauses. In your particular examples, which may refer back to the noun, story; it may also refer back to the whole clause, Mary told me a story.

    The second two are defining (restricting or identifying) relative clauses. Which, which refers back to the noun story, can be replaced by that, and often is in speech.
    Last edited by 5jj; 15-Jun-2011 at 11:16.

  4. #4
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Mary told a story, which made me laugh.
    Mary told a story, which was very funny.
    Mary told me a story which made me laugh.
    Mary told me a story which was very funny.

    The first two which-clauses are non-defining (non-restrictive or non-identifying) relative clauses. In your particular examples, which may refer back to the noun, story; it may also refer back to the whole clause, Mary told me a story.
    Why may "which" refer back to "story"? If it's meant to refer back to "story," there should be no comma. Otherwise, the purpose of using a comma to differentiate a restrictive clause from a nonrestrictive one would be defied. That's the way I see it.

  5. #5
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen165 View Post
    Why may "which" refer back to "story"? If it's meant to refer back to "story," there should be no comma. Otherwise, the purpose of using a comma to differentiate a restrictive clause from a nonrestrictive one would be defied. That's the way I see it.
    No. The difference between the two is that the defining/restrictive clause tells us which thing/person is being talked/written about; the non-defining/non-restrictive clause tells us more about the thing/person/situation.

    Mary told a story which/that was funny - Mary told a funny story.
    Mary told a story, which was funny - Mary told a story; by the way, the story was funny.

    The second is not very likely, but it is possible. It's more likely here:

    Mary told a story, which was funny, during her acceptance speech.

    In real life, non-defining regular clause referring back to a singular noun are less common in normal speech than some coursebooks and grammars might seem to suggest. many people would simply say:

    Mary told a story. It was funny.

  6. #6
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    No. The difference between the two is that the defining/restrictive clause tells us which thing/person is being talked/written about; the non-defining/non-restrictive clause tells us more about the thing/person/situation.

    Mary told a story which/that was funny - Mary told a funny story.
    Mary told a story, which was funny - Mary told a story; by the way, the story was funny.

    The second is not very likely, but it is possible. It's more likely here:

    Mary told a story, which was funny, during her acceptance speech.

    In real life, non-defining regular clause referring back to a singular noun are less common in normal speech than some coursebooks and grammars might seem to suggest. many people would simply say:

    Mary told a story. It was funny.
    But "Mary told a story, which was funny" could also mean that the act of telling the story was funny (for example, because of the way in which Mary told the story)?

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen165 View Post
    But "Mary told a story, which was funny" could also mean that the act of telling the story was funny (for example, because of the way in which Mary told the story)?
    Yes. I said this in post #3.

  8. #8
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Yes. I said this in post #3.
    Just making sure I didn't misunderstand.

  9. #9
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Mary told a story, which was funny - Mary told a story; by the way, the story was funny.

    The second is not very likely, but it is possible.
    But why would anyone write such a thing if they wanted to express that the story was funny? It would be unclear to the reader what the writer means.

  10. #10
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    Re: Are the 'which clauses' below relative clauses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen165 View Post
    But why would anyone write such a thing if they wanted to express that the story was funny? It would be unclear to the reader what the writer means.
    If we were to reject everything that was not as clear as it could be, perhaps half of the English written and 90% of that spoken in real life would be rejected.

    People are often not as confused as one might think they would be. The meaning we receive is the meaning we normally expect to receive, which is usually what the person speaking/writing intended to convey. When people say, "I don't know nothing about that", we know that they are claiming to have seen nothing. Nobody would really believe that the speaker was claiming not to have seen nothing. Apart from anything else, we know that the normal way of expressing that thought would be along the lines of "I saw something".

    A sign at a crossing on the Lehigh Valley Railroad is reported to have read "Beware of trains going both ways at once". It would not surprise me to learn that it was years before anyone spotted the humorous ambiguity,

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