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# 'which' usage

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Joined: 14 Feb 2010
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10 Jun 2010, 10:23
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Hey Tommy. I am big time confused about use of 'which'. Is this sentence wrong?

'he said he saw me there, which was a lie'.

What I have read is that, which has to refer to the noun preceding it. But here,I am not clear about the usage.

I read this line in Wren n Martin.

Thanks,
Prax

Hey Prax,

The rule is very clear. "Which" does have to modify whatever noun it's touching. The only thing that can make this confusing is compound nouns, for example,

The governmental party with all the fliers, which has three candidates in the race today, is going to win.

Obviously it looks like "which" is touching, and therefore modifying "fliers". But the truth of the matter is that "The governmental party with all the fliers" is one giant noun, so we really are modifying the party. Another way to think of it is that we have two potential modifiers for "party" here, both "with all the fliers" (prepositional modifier), and "which has..." (relative modifier). Both of them can't touch at once, so we have to line them up like this.

As for your sentence, it's wrong as regards the GMAT, even though it's generally accepted in every day speech. Even though we speak like that in English ALL the time, you can't use "which" to refer to an unclear, unspoken antecedent. Sorry about your grammar book, but the MGMAT Sentence Correction book addresses this on page 91. You can ONLY use "which" to refer to a clear noun.

'he said he saw me there, which was a lie'.

In this example, we want to modify the entire first clause (the FACT "that he said he saw me there"). We could rewrite this as:

"His saying that he saw me there was a lie."

Now that the relative pronoun is modifying the noun (Gerund) "saying", we're good to go.

Hope that helps!

-tommy
If you have any questions
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'which' usage   [#permalink] 10 Jun 2010, 10:23
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