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  1. Newbie
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    • Join Date: Dec 2007
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    #1

    The word "which" and how to use it properly

    Hello. I often get confused in the proper way to use the word "which". For example, "I live a great life for which I am grateful" as oppose to "I live a great life which I am grateful for". Can someone please provide me the "rules" for the proper usage of this word and the sequence it is associated with? Thank you in advance.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #2

    Re: The word "which" and how to use it properly

    Look at these two sentences:
    I had to go to the library to find a book that covers the Civil War.
    I had to go to the library to find a book, which took up most of the day.

    In the first sentence, the clause after "book" refers back to, and restricts, defines "book" to a particular kind of book.
    In the second, the clause does not discuss and restrict the nature of the book itself -it actually adds more information about the context in which "book' has already been defined. The information does not define, or restrict the nature of the book in any way.
    So, " ...a book that is easy to read" compared with "...a book, which I found hard to understand." In the second sentence, I have not referred back to, and further defined the book in any way, but added even more information. NOTE that a comma precedes 'which' but not 'that'.

    As for putting 'for' at the end of the sentence, or right before 'which'. I quote:
    A non-existent rule of English grammar, forbidding a sentence to end with a preposition was invented by pedantic grammarians in the 1700s who thought that Latin had the one, true grammar. In Latin, it really makes no sense to end a sentence with a preposition, since in Latin, prepositions really are pre-positional: they come before the noun they introduce.
    English word order is radically different. In English, according to very tricky rules best left unarticulated, prepositions can come before or after the pronoun or noun: "the preposition he ended with" is just as good as (actually, better than) "the preposition with which he ended".
    Also, English has phrasal verbs: verbs that consist of two words, the second of which is a preposition, like pick up, pick out, pick at, pick on, pick off, pick over, pick through, and pick apart (but not 'pick of' as in "pick of the litter"). Causing untold confusion to non-native speakers trying to learn the language, the preposition in a phrasal verb can come way after the verb, after the direct object, as in "I'll pick you up" .
    Last edited by David L.; 04-Dec-2007 at 12:46.

  2. Newbie
    Student or Learner

    • Join Date: Dec 2007
    • Posts: 2
    #3

    Re: The word "which" and how to use it properly

    Thank you David for your helpful response. I think I have a better understanding after reading your post. Although there are some other confusions, if you don't mind... Firstly, is it then safe to say that "The watch is my most prized possession which I cannot seem to part with" is just as acceptable as "The watch is my most prized possession with which I cannot seem to part"? Also quoting your sentence... "Also, English has phrasal verbs: verbs that consist of two words, the second of which is a preposition, like pick up, pick out, pick at, pick on, pick off, pick over, pick through, and pick apart (but not 'pick of' as in "pick of the litter")." Sadly, I would have said "the second which is a preposition" and would've completely left out the "of". Any tips on that? I really do appreciate your help...


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #4

    Re: The word "which" and how to use it properly

    Acceptable? To my native speaker's ear, it's mandatory!! Honestly, the second version sounds totally unnatural and just wouldn't be said or written.
    Having said that, let's have another look at the first version:
    "The watch is my most prized possession with which I cannot seem to part"
    True, it is grammatically correct, in fact it is overly-correct, and stilted. I could only imagine reading it in some novel from about the 1860's.
    In speaking, we would more likely say:
    "The watch is my most prized possession - I just cannot seem to part with it."
    That, of course, is if that is your intended meaning. What it 'says' to the listener is, I've thought about it, I've even given it away a few times, but always had to ask for it back. I just can't seem to be able to part with it.'
    Do you really intend to convey:
    "The watch is my most prized possession and I'm reluctant to part with it."

    or more formally, in writing perhaps,

    "The watch is my most prized possession and I'm loathe to part with it."

    "...the second of which is a preposition." I would have said "the second which is a preposition" and would've completely left out the "of".
    Here, the 'of' goes with "second" as a set phrase eg
    The second game of the season,
    or
    "There are five matches, and this is the second of the season."
    "...two words, the second of these two words being a preposition."
    Last edited by David L.; 05-Dec-2007 at 06:04.

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