We came to a spot than which mine eyes have seldom seen a lovelier site.

Is this sentence even grammatically correct? We were asked to find the error in sentence and when I asked my teacher about it he just said "its an excerpt from an old literature but don't know from which one and we should always opt for no error in these literature related questions".

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    Please cite (name) the source that you are quoting and link to it. – Alan Carmack Nov 4 '16 at 12:42
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    Please always include a source for this sort of question. Knowing who said/wrote it is very helpful as is context for it. – Catija Nov 4 '16 at 12:42
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    It looks like this comes from "High School English Grammar and Composition Book". – stangdon Nov 4 '16 at 13:24
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    Anyway, I don't know if the authors wrote this sentence themselves or got it from somewhere else, but it's extremely old-fashioned and stilted-sounding to modern ears, and a strange choice for teaching English language learners today. – stangdon Nov 4 '16 at 13:25
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    Downvote retracted. :) – Mari-Lou A Nov 4 '16 at 14:05

The sentence is old-fashioned—mine is no longer used as a determiner—but it is grammatically acceptable and ordinary. The relative clause launched by than which has this as its underlying 'canonical' clause:

                  mine eyes have seldom seen a lovelier site than [this spot].

[This spot] is represented by relative which; that takes its place at the front of the clause and 'pied-pipes' (carries along with it) the preposition than whose object it is, leaving a 'gap' (_) in the clause:

                 mine eyes have seldom seen a lovelier site than _____.
          ------------------------------------------------←[than which] 
      than which mine eyes have seldom seen a lovelier site
| improve this answer | |

That is definitely archaic English ("mine eyes" is the telling phrase), so you need to make allowances for changes in English over the ages.

I break down the sentence as follows:

  1. We came to a spot than

    We arrived at a location then,

  2. which mine eyes have seldom seen

    where my eyes have hardly ever seen

  3. a lovelier site.

    a more beautiful sight/site.

That last word tickles me! Because it's the speaker's eyes, you'd expect "sight" - but since the subject of discussion is a location, "site" is also valid.

| improve this answer | |
  • In this case site probably means 'location' – Mike Brockington May 1 '19 at 10:58
  • Agreed completely! But given the poetical phrasing of the rest it, the homonym tickles me. – John Burger May 1 '19 at 11:00

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