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    #1

    In what vs in which

    I've come across a phrase - the act in what is set to be a protracted legal battle. Please explain the role of "what" in the phrase. Does it act as the relative pronoun. I would put in the act in which. Please expain. Many thanks

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    #2

    Re: In what vs in which

    Quote Originally Posted by olegv View Post
    I've come across a phrase - the act in what is set to be a protracted legal battle. Please explain the role of "what" in the phrase. Does it act as the relative pronoun. I would put in the act in which. Please expain. Many thanks
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Olegv.

    (1) I believe you are quite correct: "what" in your sentence is a so-called

    indefinite relative pronoun:

    The act in what ( = that which) is set to be a protracted legal battle. =

    The act in that (which is set to be a protracted ....). "Which ...battle" is

    an adjective clause modifying "that."

    (2) Here are some other examples from my favorite grammar book:

    That is WHAT (that which) I said before. = That is that (which I said before).

    Do WHAT (that which) is right. = Do that (which is right).

    Thank you.

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    #3

    Re: In what vs in which

    Thank you very much for your explanation.

    In other words, I would say - the act in that which is set to be a protracted legal battel - Correct?

    What is the grammar book your are referring to? Would you please give me the name, if possible. Many thanks.

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    #4

    Re: In what vs in which

    Quote Originally Posted by olegv View Post
    Thank you very much for your explanation.

    In other words, I would say - the act in that which is set to be a protracted legal battel - Correct?

    What is the grammar book your are referring to? Would you please give me the name, if possible. Many thanks.
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Thank you for your reply.

    (1) I apologize for not clearly explaining.

    (a) NO, you would NOT actually speak or write "that which."

    (i) That is only an explanation of "what" as a so-called indefinite relative pronoun means in grammatical terms.

    (ii) You would actually say: an act in what is set to ....

    (2)
    An act in that which is set to. ..." is certainly not wrong, but it is not idiomatic (native speakers don't speak that way).

    (a) For example: Do WHAT I tell you!

    (i) I do not think anyone would say: "Do THAT WHICH I tell you!"

    (3) My favorite book is Descriptive English Grammar, Homer C. House and Susan E. Harman.

    (a) It's very old (1950), so it's probably out of print.

    (b) Nowadays, there are SO many good grammar books available.

    If you post a question, some of the teachers and non-teachers will

    recommend a good book.

    Be sure to tell them what level of English you have attained. You don't

    want a book that is too easy or too difficult.

    Have a nice day!

    *****

    P. S.

    I know WHAT I mean.

    (a) My favorite book says it means I know that (which I mean). Which I mean = adjective clause modifying "that."

    (b) But another good ( and very old) book says:

    "What I mean" is a noun clause that is the object of "know." In other words, many books define "what" as an indefinite relative pronoun, but they do not break it down into "that which." They saY that it simply introduces the noun clause.

    Maybe your sentence could be more simply analyzed as:

    an act in (preposition) + what is set to be....

    The noun clause is object of the preposition "in."

    *****

    Perhaps other people will respond to this post. If you are not satisfied with my answer or those of other people, just post a similar question.

    Have a nice day!

  1. MASM's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: In what vs in which

    "the act in what is set to be a protracted legal battle"
    I think I would use "which" here instead of "what".
    "The act in which is set to be a protracted legal battle", "which" is acting as a relative pronoun substituting "the act" and limiting/defining it.

    At first I interpreted the sentence with "what" in a confusing way. I thought it was something like, for example: "The role of Julia Roberts in what is considered to be the most important film in history" (I've just made it up) but "what" here goes with "the film" not with "the role".

    I don't know if it's just me, but to avoid confusions I'd use "which".

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    #6

    Re: In what vs in which

    Quote Originally Posted by MASM View Post
    "the act in what is set to be a protracted legal battle"
    I think I would use "which" here instead of "what".
    "The act in which is set to be a protracted legal battle", "which" is acting as a relative pronoun substituting "the act" and limiting/defining it.

    At first I interpreted the sentence with "what" in a confusing way. I thought it was something like, for example: "The role of Julia Roberts in what is considered to be the most important film in history" (I've just made it up) but "what" here goes with "the film" not with "the role".

    I don't know if it's just me, but to avoid confusions I'd use "which".
    I think you've misunderstood the meaning - maybe because a full sentence wasn't used.
    If you use "which" you get:
    "... the role of Julia Roberts which is considered to be the most important film in history"
    With "which" or "in which", you are saying that the film is included in Julia Roberts' role. It's not - the role is in the film.

    Consider these sentences:
    This protest march was the first battle in what would become a civil war.
    "Which" or "in which" are not appropriate. The civil war occurs as a result of the march. The civil war doesn't occur within either the march or 'the first battle'.
    "What" or "that which" isn't actually defined. It refers to whatever it was that led to the civil war. "The protest march was the first sign that conditions were leading to a civil war."

    He gave me a suggestion in what was to become a series of useful pieces of advice.
    The suggestion was "in" the series of advice - not vice versa.

    I included a few lies in what was to become my official alibi.
    I came up with an alibi in which I included a few lies.

  3. MASM's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: In what vs in which

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I think you've misunderstood the meaning - maybe because a full sentence wasn't used.
    If you use "which" you get:
    "... the role of Julia Roberts which is considered to be the most important film in history"
    With "which" or "in which", you are saying that the film is included in Julia Roberts' role. It's not - the role is in the film.

    Consider these sentences:
    This protest march was the first battle in what would become a civil war.
    "Which" or "in which" are not appropriate. The civil war occurs as a result of the march. The civil war doesn't occur within either the march or 'the first battle'.
    "What" or "that which" isn't actually defined. It refers to whatever it was that led to the civil war. "The protest march was the first sign that conditions were leading to a civil war."

    He gave me a suggestion in what was to become a series of useful pieces of advice.
    The suggestion was "in" the series of advice - not vice versa.

    I included a few lies in what was to become my official alibi.
    I came up with an alibi in which I included a few lies.
    Yes, that was exactly my point. I wasn't suggesting that "which" could be used in my sentence, rather the opposite.
    I probably misunderstood the original sentence, Would you choose "in which" or "in what"?.
    Because if the setence stays with "what" this is not a relative pronoun, while "which" would be. That is basically what I was trying to answer

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    #8

    Re: In what vs in which

    Thank you for this discussion. From very grammatical viewpoint, do you mean "what" in the context of a nominal clause -the whole clause acting as a noun, either a subject or an object. Many thanks

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    #9

    Re: In what vs in which

    Quote Originally Posted by MASM View Post
    Yes, that was exactly my point. I wasn't suggesting that "which" could be used in my sentence, rather the opposite.
    Sorry, you said: " ... to avoid confusions I'd use "which". And I was explaining why "which" doesn't work.

    I probably misunderstood the original sentence, Would you choose "in which" or "in what"?.
    Well, it uses "in what". That has a meaning, which TheParser and I have attempted to explain. If it were changed to "in which", it would be a different sentence fragment - without a meaning in this case.

    Because if the setence stays with "what" this is not a relative pronoun, while "which" would be. That is basically what I was trying to answer
    "What" in this context means "that which". "Which" is a relative pronoun referring to "that".
    I included a few lies in what was to become my official alibi.
    I included a few lies in that which was to become my official alibi.
    "that" = whatever it was that formed the basis from which I constructed the alibi.
    I included a few lies in whatever it was which/that was to become my official alibi.

    He told me what to say.
    He told me whatever it was that I had to say.
    He told me that which I was to say. (This one sounds odd, but it has the same meaning. "that which" = "what")

    I can't really answer for the original "sentence" since I don't know the meaning of "act" in this context or what it was "in". However, the act was in whatever was to become the battle. The battle wasn't in the act.

    Does that help? I'm really not sure if you understand it or not.

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    #10

    Re: In what vs in which

    I don't know if it's just me, but to avoid confusions I'd use "which". I meant in the original sentence, not in mine, sorry I should have made it clear.
    I understand now that they have the same use. It's just that I got confused by "the act". To me, it didn't really fit there .

    Thank you very much for your help!

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