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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Exclamation Difference between "in which" and "on which"

    One of my colleagues came to me with this question which appears on a college entrance exam for Japanese high school students;

    The tree rings can also reflect a year ( ) which there were insect plagues.

    The possible answers to the blank are: at in of on

    I quickly removed 'at' and 'of' as choices, but I ran into difficulties in deciding between 'in' and 'on'.
    At first I thought 'in' was the correct choice, but after looking at the perculiar use of '...a year...' and '...were...plagues' I was thinking 'on' would be the correct choice due to the subjunctive voice of the sentence.

    Any thoughts on the answer would be appreciated!!


    • Join Date: May 2006
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    #2

    Re: Difference between "in which" and "on which"

    Hi, Opie,
    In is my choice and it seems pretty obvious - in 1945, in 1978 etc.

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    #3

    Re: Difference between "in which" and "on which"

    Quote Originally Posted by opie226 View Post
    One of my colleagues came to me with this question which appears on a college entrance exam for Japanese high school students;

    The tree rings can also reflect a year ( ) which there were insect plagues.

    The possible answers to the blank are: at in of on

    I quickly removed 'at' and 'of' as choices, but I ran into difficulties in deciding between 'in' and 'on'.
    At first I thought 'in' was the correct choice, but after looking at the perculiar use of '...a year...' and '...were...plagues' I was thinking 'on' would be the correct choice due to the subjunctive voice of the sentence.

    Any thoughts on the answer would be appreciated!!
    This is basically an adjectival clauses, which means you can divide the sentence into two separate shorter sentences. Here is my division:

    The tree rings can reflect a year.
    There were insect plagues in a year.

    You canNOT say:

    There were insect plagues on a year, or
    There were insect plagues at a year, or
    There were insect plagues of a year.

    So "in" is the only choice.

  2. Newbie
    Student or Learner

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
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    #4

    Smile Re: Difference between "in which" and "on which"

    Thanks for the great explanation of why the answer is "in". We had decided later yesterday "in" was correct, but I couldn't explain why it was the answer aside from saying "in" was the only answer which sounded right.

    Cheers!


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    #5

    Re: Difference between "in which" and "on which"

    One could perhaps identify an event as being IN a timespan because the event exists within the history of the timespan - ie. the event is IN a SET of circumstances. One certainly can't put something ON a year....what is there to stop it falling OFF?

    A more 'correct' word to insert in the sentence would be during, because the plagues were neither an event nor an object that could be placed IN a container or a SET, but were actually an ongoing time-span feature observed during (ie. for some duration of) the year.

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    #6

    Re: Difference between "in which" and "on which"

    Quote Originally Posted by pedant View Post
    One could perhaps identify an event as being IN a timespan because the event exists within the history of the timespan - ie. the event is IN a SET of circumstances. One certainly can't put something ON a year....what is there to stop it falling OFF?

    A more 'correct' word to insert in the sentence would be during, because the plagues were neither an event nor an object that could be placed IN a container or a SET, but were actually an ongoing time-span feature observed during (ie. for some duration of) the year.
    This is really a penetrating comment. In fact, your analysis of prepositions reminds me of George Lakoff's cognitive approach to metaphor. Lakoff thinks these prepositions are all based on metaphoric thought.

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