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

  5. #5
    jwschang Guest
    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
    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.

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