Results 1 to 6 of 6

    • Join Date: Nov 2009
    • Posts: 9
    #1

    What is "which" referring to? (student)

    I've been looking up this grammar rule about the word "which," but I can't find what am looking for. My question is what is the word "which" referring to?

    Example: The banker who threw the frisbee at his boss floated to the ceiling, which was intriguing.

    Does which refer to "The banker who threw the frisbee floated to the ceiling?" Is this true for all sentences, when the independent clause is separated by a comma followed by a which?

    If I took out the comma, does which refer to "ceiling." Is this true for all sentences, when the sentence doesn't contain a comma?

    Thanks for help

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 24,512
    #2

    Re: What is "which" referring to? (student)

    The fact that he floated to the ceiling was intriguing.

    In this sentence, the comma is necessary.

    It would be a foolhardy teacher who would say 'this is true for all sentences' as there are always exceptions to grammar 'rules'.

    (Having said that, it wouldn't surprise me if somebody found a grammar rule to which there are no exceptions.)

    Rover


    • Join Date: Nov 2009
    • Posts: 9
    #3

    Re: What is "which" referring to? (student)

    Er, I just stopped by another sentence that doesn't make sense to me according to the comma thing you told me. This is from a biology textbook.

    "Like red blood cells, platelets have no nuclei and a limited lifespan. They are derived from the fragmentation of large bone marrow cells called megakaryocytes, which are derived from the same stem cells that give rise to red blood cells and white blood cells."

    If the text is trying to refer to megakaryocytes, then shouldn't this author remove the comma because the sentence itself doesn't make any sense when the word "which" is referring to the entire clause? In other words, how can platelets that are derived from fragmentation of large bone marrow cells be derived from the same stem cells that give rise to red blood cells and white blood cells?" I think what the author meant was platets are derived from bone marrow cells. The bone marrow cells are derived from the same stem cells that give rise to red blood cells and white blood cells.
    In my previous post, I had a comma before the word "which," which said that the banker floated to the ceiling was intriguing. But it seems like, if I wanted to refer to the ceiling that was intriguing, I would remove the comma.

    Could someone clarify this for me even further? Thanks.

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 19,221
    #4

    Re: What is "which" referring to? (student)

    Which often refers to the most recent word, as it does in your megakaryocytes sentence.

    The book, which was lousy by the way, is on the table.
    The book is on the table. The fact that the book was lousy is not necessary to the sentence, nor does it tell you which book I mean. It is used with the comma to indicate that the information that follows is not essential to the sentence. It's a non-restrictive phase.

    The book that Steve lent me is on the table. The book that I bought is on my shelf.
    The phrase "that Steve lent me" tells you which book I mean. So does "that I bought." You don't separate those phrases from the noun because they are restrictive and tell you which book.

    Which CAN refer to the entire sentence or a fact revealed in the sentence, or it can be the introduction of a non-restrictive phrase that gives you more information about a specific noun.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.


    • Join Date: Nov 2009
    • Posts: 9
    #5

    Re: What is "which" referring to? (student)

    wow that explains a lot of my confusion for reading comprehension. It seems like the English Language is mere "play around with the words and find one that make sense." Thanks a lot! I would give my double thanks = ]

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 19,221
    #6

    Re: What is "which" referring to? (student)

    Just a bit more on this:
    A good rule is that if you see something that has a comma on either side of it, it can be removed entirely from the sentence and you'll still be grammatical and the overall meaning of the sentence won't change.


    My house, which I've lived in for six years, is near a stream.
    I've lived in my house, which is near a stream, for six years.

    Let's say I have two houses, however. One is by a stream and one is in the center of town...
    My house that is in the center of town is available if you want to use it when you visit Philadelphia.
    I'm worried that my house that is by a stream is going to get flooded.


    You see how that's different from the one-house version? I'm worried that my house, which is by a stream, is going to get flooded.

    (I am one of the people who use "which" to introduce a non-restrictive phase, the part that just gives additional information but isn't needed, and "that" for the restrictive phrase that tells you what house, book, etc. I am referring to. Some people don't keep that difference.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 21-Feb-2010, 02:29
  2. [Vocabulary] How do you pronounce "Cotton", "Button", "Britain", "Manhattan"...
    By Williamyh in forum Pronunciation and Phonetics
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 24-Dec-2009, 09:36
  3. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-Sep-2008, 08:27
  4. confusing words "expressed" or "express" and "named" or"names"
    By Dawood Usmani in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 26-Oct-2007, 19:33
  5. the use of "the" by ESL student
    By help me in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 22-Apr-2005, 17:56

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

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