Student or Learner
I'm really confused because of the following passege. Would you read it?
Although Copernicus worked out his ideas without the help of telescopic ovservations, without the precise mesaurements of planetary motion for which a telescope is essential, the Copernican hypothesis might have remained just that: an unprovable theory. Telescopes have allowed astronomers to discover things that no one could have guessed at, and without which astronomy would have made only small advances beyond Copernicus.
What does "which" refer to?
According to the answer key, it seems to refer to "things that no one could have guessed at," but I'm not sure about it.
Is there any possibility that "which" refers to "Telescopes"?
Thank you very much in advance for your help on this.
It's not grammatical for 'telescopes', but I think that's the more likely intended meaning.
As it stands though, if the sentence is grammatical, 'which' can only refer to 'things'.
Telescopes have allowed astronomers to discover things that
i) no one could have guessed at, and
ii) without which astronomy would have made only small advances beyond Copernicus
The only factors that makes 'telescopes' the probable intended meaning is the likely fact that without telescopes, "astronomy would have made only small advances beyond Copernicus", and the fact that the whole passage is about telescopes. The possibility/probability of "telescopes" doesn't come from the grammar.
In my view, that would have made "things" the undisputed antecedent. With the added "and", the sentence can be broken as: Telescopes have allowed astronomers to discover things [that no one could have guessed at,] and without which (telescopes), astronomy would have made only small advances beyond Copernicus.
I also disagree that "possiblity" is always an absolute. In common English usage, "more possible" is frequently used. If one can increase the possibility of something, then one thing can be more possible than another.
But I do agree that the phrasing is a problem.
Last edited by MikeNewYork; 19-Nov-2013 at 02:47. Reason: typo
Thank you very much for the instructions, MikeNewYork and Raymott.
They are quite helpful to me to understand the sentence.