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  1. Key Member
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    #1

    Marooned in a little town

    I feel that something is wrong with my sentence, but I cannot pinpoint the mistake. Would you please correct my sentence?
    Can I use "marooned" in my sentence?

    John felt marooned in a little town, which he would never be able to leave.

  2. teechar's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    "Marooned" is okay, but I suspect "that little town" might work better than "a little town." Also, what's the function of the part after the comma?

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    #3

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    teechar,
    Thank you for your help.
    My problem is that despite knowing the rules about the identifying and non-identifying clauses, I am still uncertain when I have to identify what kind of a clause the second part of my sentence is. This is one of my weak points in English, which I am trying to improve, but still I have not succeeded as I wished. I probably have to do more grammar exercises using these kinds of sentences to get a better knowledge.

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    #4

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    Okay, putting aside clauses (identifying or otherwise) for the moment, how would you rephrase that sentence?

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    #5

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    Honestly speaking, I am still not sure if I need the comma or not, but my inner voice tells me I need it.

    John felt marooned in that little town, which he would never be able to leave.

  6. teechar's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    That's hardly rephrasing it.

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    #7

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    Perhaps:

    John felt stuck in that little town which he would never be able to leave.

    The word "maroon" always makes me think of shipwrecked sailors.

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    #8

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    What about this sentence?
    John would never be able to leave that little town in which he felt marooned.

  9. teechar's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    That's better.

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    #10

    Re: Marooned in a little town

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    I probably have to do more grammar exercises using these kinds of sentences to get a better knowledge.
    I doubt if they would help that much.

    One problem with such clauses is that the decision is normally made unconsciously by the speaker/writer at the moment of producing the sentence, not by the person who makes an observer's judgement.


    1. John felt marooned in a little town(,) which he would never be able to leave.
    2. John felt marooned in a little town(,) which depressed him.
    3. John felt marooned in that little town(,) which he would never be able to leave.
    4. John felt marooned in a little town(,) which depressed him.

    If I were to produce those sentences, my use of the indefinite article #1 would suggest that the town is undefined (it's 'littleness' still makes it one of thousands). Anything further I said about this little town would almost certainly define it in some way. The indefinite artcle (subconsciously selected) would lead me to make no significant pause* in speech, producing what a grammarian would label a defining relative clause. In writing, I, knowing something about the recognised rules, would use no comma. However, the alternative idea of John being marooned in the sort of town that one cannot leave is possible. There would be no pause in speech and no comma in writing. We'd have a defining relative clause.

    In uttering #2, I would probably subconsciously know in advance that I would end with a comment that the idea of being marooned in a little town was what depressed John. The comment has the idea of being an additional thought, not defining anything. Such clause-comment relative clauses are normally spoken with a clearly recognisable pause before them in speech and a comma in writing; they are non-defining relative clauses.

    In #3, 'that' defines the little town. We know which particular little town is being talked/written about. The relative clause therefore almost certainly gives us additional, non-defining, information. We make a significant pause in speech, marked by a comma in writing, for a non-defining relative clause.

    #4 represents an alternative reading of #2, in which the antecedent of 'which' is 'that little town'. We could therefore omit the pause in speech and the comma in writing. We would have a defining relative clause.



    *A slight complicator, for both native speakers writing such sentences and for non-native learners, is that if the relative clause comes between the subject of the main clause and its verb, we may make an (insignificant) pause after the relative clause. This can lead us to insert an incorrect comma after the relative clause when we write the sentence.
    We discovered at my nephew's graduation ceremony that the lecturer who supervised my wife's doctoral thesis
    , was my nephew's economics tutor.


    My use of 'almost certainly', 'probably', 'normally', 'alternative idea' and 'alternative reading' are probably initially depressing for learners who would like clear rules to follow in every situation. However, the remember that there is in fact one clear rule: it is speakers/writers themselves who decide whether they are defining a noun phrase or adding more information about a clause or noun-phrase. A little practice should enable you to use a pause/comma as appropriate. One major problem with coursebook exercises, is that you are trying to get into somebody else's mind. You don't have this problem when you are creating your own sentences.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 11-Dec-2016 at 16:56.

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