Restrictive or nonrestrictive

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Allen165

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States and public authorities have for the most part intervened to a limited extent in sport, instead leaving the organization and regulation of sport in the hands of sports federations. Sport is, however, increasingly attracting the attention of governments, which are utilizing it to achieve social and economic objectives.

Should there be a comma before "which"? I'm not sure whether the "which" clause is restrictive or not.

Thanks.
 

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States and public authorities have for the most part intervened to a limited extent in sport, instead leaving the organization and regulation of sport in the hands of sports federations. Sport is, however, increasingly attracting the attention of governments, which are utilizing it to achieve social and economic objectives.

Should there be a comma before "which"? I'm not sure whether the "which" clause is restrictive or not.

Thanks.
If you left out the commas (restrictive), you'd be stating that sport was only attracting the attention of those governments who were already utilizing it to achieve social and economic objectives.
That might be your meaning.
If it is, you'd need to explain why these governments are utilizing sport in such a way if sport hasn't attracted their attention yet.
 

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States and public authorities have for the most part intervened to a limited extent in sport, instead leaving the organization and regulation of sport in the hands of sports federations. Sport is, however, increasingly attracting the attention of governments, which are utilizing it to achieve social and economic objectives.

Should there be a comma before "which"? I'm not sure whether the "which" clause is restrictive or not.

Thanks.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Good morning, Jasmin.

(1) Maybe (maybe) the sentence you have presented us shows

why some teachers insist on using "that" for restrictive clauses

and "which" for non-restrictive clauses.

(2) Sport is attracting the attention of governments THAT are

utilizing it to achieve social objectives. For example, countries

such as X, Y, and Z.

(3) Sport is attracting the attention of governments, WHICH are

utilizing it to achieve social objectives. This is a growing trend among

governments.


Have a nice day.
 

bertietheblue

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States and public authorities have for the most part intervened to a limited extent in sport, instead leaving the organization and regulation of sport in the hands of sports federations. Sport is, however, increasingly attracting the attention of governments, which are utilizing it to achieve social and economic objectives.

Should there be a comma before "which"? I'm not sure whether the "which" clause is restrictive or not.

Thanks.

If governments are already utilizing sport for the purpose of achieving certain 'social and economic objectives', sport already has their attention. Therefore, doesn't this only make sense if the clause is non-restrictive?
 

bertietheblue

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Well, to me, it's just not English with a restrictive clause. You can only attract someone's attention if their attention is not currently attracted. I think you'd have to say 'even more attention from countries that are already utilizing sport ...'
 

Allen165

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Good morning, Jasmin.

(1) Maybe (maybe) the sentence you have presented us shows

why some teachers insist on using "that" for restrictive clauses

and "which" for non-restrictive clauses.

(2) Sport is attracting the attention of governments THAT are

utilizing it to achieve social objectives. For example, countries

such as X, Y, and Z.

(3) Sport is attracting the attention of governments, WHICH are

utilizing it to achieve social objectives. This is a growing trend among

governments.


Have a nice day.

Although I adhere to the distinction between "that" and "which," I think the distinction is unnecessary, at least in written English. The comma distinguishes a restrictive clause from a nonrestrictive one. If there's no comma before a clause, then the clause is restrictive. It's that simple.

Only in spoken English could there actually be uncertainty as to whether a clause is restrictive or not, since we don't know whether there's a comma before it. Of course, the speaker could help us by making a pause to signal the comma. I think that in cases where there truly is uncertainty, context and common sense tell us what the speaker is trying to communicate.

My problem is determining whether a clause is restrictive or not. A restrictive clause is usually defined as something that is essential to the meaning of a sentence, but whether something is essential or not is often open to interpretation. I think the term "restrictive clause" is indefinable and its meaning varies according to context.
 

corum

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If there's no comma before a clause, then the clause is restrictive. It's that simple..

No, unfortunatelly that is not that simple. Semantic and pragmatic factors play an important role in the syntax of relative clauses.
 

bertietheblue

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Although I adhere to the distinction between "that" and "which," I think the distinction is unnecessary, at least in written English. The comma distinguishes a restrictive clause from a nonrestrictive one. If there's no comma before a clause, then the clause is restrictive. It's that simple. Not quite that simple: you cannot use 'that' before a non-restrictive clause; you can use 'which' before either a restrictive or a non-restrictive clause. Two useful points if in doubt (one from me, the other from, I think, Raymott in an earlier thread):

'which'/'who' is never wrong; 'that' may be wrong
if it's a comment use a comma

Only in spoken English could there actually be uncertainty as to whether a clause is restrictive or not, since we don't know whether there's a comma before it. Of course, the speaker could help us by making a pause to signal the comma. I think that in cases where there truly is uncertainty, context and common sense tell us what the speaker is trying to communicate.

My problem is determining whether a clause is restrictive or not. A restrictive clause is usually defined as something that is essential to the meaning of a sentence, but whether something is essential or not is often open to interpretation. I think the term "restrictive clause" is indefinable and its meaning varies according to context.

Bertie
 

Allen165

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I'll give you another example.

Bruno Walrave and Longinus Koch, Dutch professional pacemakers in motor-paced cycle races, brought an action before the District Court of Utrecht against the Union Cycliste Internationale(UCI) and the Dutch and Spanish cycling federations. The UCI had drawn up a rule requiring the pacemaker and the stayer to be of the same nationality in races of the said type, which the plaintiffs considered discriminatory.

I'm pretty sure that "which the plaintiffs considered discriminatory" should be preceded by a comma, but one could certainly make the argument that it's a restrictive clause. Why? Because it provides an essential piece of information; namely, it tells us why Bruno Walrave and Longinus Koch brought an action before the District Court of Utrecht.
 
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bertietheblue

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I'll give you another example.

Bruno Walrave and Longinus Koch, Dutch professional pacemakers in motor-paced cycle races, brought an action before the District Court of Utrecht against the Union Cycliste Internationale(UCI) and the Dutch and Spanish cycling federations. The UCI had drawn up a rule requiring the pacemaker and the stayer to be of the same nationality in races of the said type, which the plaintiffs considered discriminatory.

I'm pretty sure that "which the plaintiffs considered discriminatory" should be preceded with a comma, but one could certainly make the argument that it's a restrictive clause. Why? Because it provides an essential piece of information; namely, it tells us why Bruno Walrave and Longinus Koch brought an action before the District Court of Utrecht.

This can only be a non-restrictive relative clause. If restrictive it would restrict the preceding noun, ie 'the type that the plaintiffs considered discriminatory', which doesn't make sense.

To go back to Raymott's tip, 'if a comment use a comma', you have a main clause that can stand alone as a sentence: 'The UCI had drawn up a rule ... type'. The extra bit is a comment on this rule (or this drawing up - it's not clear but the sense suggests the rule) - it is a rule which is discrimatory.
 

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Hello again, Jasmin.

(1) Since you are in the field of law, it is understandable and commendable that you wish to be exact.

(2) In case you have not done so already, please google "Bryan A. Garner."

(a) He has written an English usage book that some people like a lot.

(b) A lawyer, he has also written books on legal writing.

(c) When I googled briefly, I discovered quite a few websites devoted to his work.

(d) I think some of those websites even invite questions on legal writing.

(e) I think it would be well worth your effort to check him out. It seems that he insists on the highest standards of legal writing.

Best of luck to you on your career.
 

Allen165

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This can only be a non-restrictive relative clause. If restrictive it would restrict the preceding noun, ie 'the type that the plaintiffs considered discriminatory', which doesn't make sense.

To go back to Raymott's tip, 'if a comment use a comma', you have a main clause that can stand alone as a sentence: 'The UCI had drawn up a rule ... type'. The extra bit is a comment on this rule (or this drawing up - it's not clear but the sense suggests the rule) - it is a rule which is discrimatory.

I thought you'd be interested to know that in the States some cases have turned on the distinction between "that" and "which."

http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/cumbow.htm
 

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I thought you'd be interested to know that in the States some cases have turned on the distinction between "that" and "which."
Yes, but not legitimately, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a dissenting judge. The main judge decided that a "which" clause without a comma is still a non-defining clause, which I think is nonsense.
That only shows that it doesn't matter how precisely a law is written. If the judge is semi-literate, she can read it how she will. Unfortunately, Jasmin, this means that a lot of the work you are doing is all for nought if the judge doesn't understand it.

"Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt of the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, held that “the word ‘which’ is a nondefining, nonrestrictive pronoun"
Wrong

A dissenting judge, also citing Strunk and White, pointed out that nonrestrictive clauses are supposed to be set off by commas, and there was no comma between “proper cause” and “which the bylaws may specify,” so the “which” should be treated as if it were a “that.”

Right
 

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Yes, but not legitimately, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a dissenting judge. The main judge decided that a "which" clause without a comma is still a non-defining clause, which I think is nonsense.
That only shows that it doesn't matter how precisely a law is written. If the judge is semi-literate, she can read it how she will. Unfortunately, Jasmin, this means that a lot of the work you are doing is all for nought if the judge doesn't understand it.

"Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt of the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, held that “the word ‘which’ is a nondefining, nonrestrictive pronoun"
Wrong

A dissenting judge, also citing Strunk and White, pointed out that nonrestrictive clauses are supposed to be set off by commas, and there was no comma between “proper cause” and “which the bylaws may specify,” so the “which” should be treated as if it were a “that.”
Right

I completely agree with the dissenting judge. I wish the advocates of the that/which distinction would stop passing it off as a rule and accept it for what it is: a personal preference.
 
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bertietheblue

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The problem is that most people, even educated people, are not overly bothered about inserting commas before every non-restrictive 'which' clause. From my experience proofreading legal documents, the tendency is to insert commas where the sense would otherwise be unclear; grammatical 'niceties' are not lawyers' concern. And there's no, indeed even less, reason to believe this is different elsewhere considering that lawyers generally strive to be precise in their use of language

I mean, I'm talking across the board. I reckon I've hardly ever read an agreement or other document of any length where every single non-restrictive clause is preceded by a comma, no matter that the lawyer in question has a Double First in Classics from Oxford University. And though this goes against the grain with me, over the years I've learnt to swallow the offence.
 

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grammatical 'niceties' are not lawyers' concern.
I think this has just been proven untrue.

If you are a proofreader, isn't it your job to add the commas where they are necessary, rather than assert that many people don't use them? What other obvious errors do you let pass?
 

bertietheblue

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I think this has just been proven untrue.

We used to pass around stories of legal disputes over English usage that we'd culled from the legal press. It made us proofreaders feel a tad more important than we were. Truth is though, such cases are very rare and if they weren't, lawyers would care more.
If you are a proofreader, isn't it your job to add the commas where they are necessary, rather than assert that many people don't use them? What other obvious errors do you let pass?

I did insert them to begin with, but over time I came to realise that lawyers weren't that bothered, provided the sense was clear, and would be extremely unimpressed if they asked for a proofread only for their document to come back with 100+ comma insertions.

And certainly where we are, the absence of commas before non-restrictive clauses isn't considered an 'obvious error' unless the sense would otherwise be affected; in fact, I'd say it's just about the most minor error possible from a lawyer's perspective. (I should say though that, where not to have a comma would change the sense, I will always mark 'insert comma if sense is ...'.)

I'm sure there are many other minor errors that I let slip. I'll stick to my guns on a lot of things that lawyers don't care about, but generally there's a balance to be struck between grammatical exactitude and meeting lawyers' needs. And their overriding need - dare I say it, their raison d'etre - is to make obscene amounts of money and not to do major rewrites of their work because some smart-arse proofreader down in the basement - well, at home in my case - got on his high horse over their grammar.
 

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... and not to do major rewrites of their work because some smart-arse proofreader down in the basement - well, at home in my case - got on his high horse over their grammar.
OK, I've never been a professional proofreader, so I'll just have to accept that correcting grammar and punctuation is not part of the job description.
 

Allen165

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The problem is that most people, even educated people, are not overly bothered about inserting commas before every non-restrictive 'which' clause. From my experience proofreading legal documents, the tendency is to insert commas where the sense would otherwise be unclear; grammatical 'niceties' are not lawyers' concern. And there's no, indeed even less, reason to believe this is different elsewhere considering that lawyers generally strive to be precise in their use of language

I mean, I'm talking across the board. I reckon I've hardly ever read an agreement or other document of any length where every single non-restrictive clause is preceded by a comma, no matter that the lawyer in question has a Double First in Classics from Oxford University. And though this goes against the grain with me, over the years I've learnt to swallow the offence.

Perhaps this lack of interest in correct grammar has to do with the legal education in England. In North America legal writing is part of the law school curriculum and is a bigtime business. In Europe, on the other hand, there isn't as much focus on it (at least based on my experience). In Switzerland, for example, legal writing is not taught at universities, although students are introduced to the formal aspects of writing a legal paper (e.g., how to cite properly).

What's the situation like in England?
 
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