"using" is basically a verb in the progressive aspect. Does it serve as a preposition, too? I can sometimes choose between which and that in a relative clause construction. But in a sentence such as "He found a key, using which he slit open the package", I cannot substitute that for which. Only which (not that) occurs after prepositions - would that be the rule for the sentence I have quoted?

  • 2
    This is the most thought-provoking question I've seen here in a long time. Nov 5, 2016 at 11:14
  • 4
    No, “using” can only be a verb, not a preposition. “Using which” is a preposed element in the supplementary relative clause, the basic order being “he slit open the package using a key”. “Which” is object of “using” in the relative clause with “key” as its antecedent, so the relative clause is “using which he slit open the package, where which = "a key" You’re right about “that”: in relative clauses, it can occur only in a narrow range of syntactic constructions; for example, it can’t follow a preposition, and of course it normally only forms integrated relative clauses.
    – BillJ
    Nov 5, 2016 at 11:28
  • Thank you, @BillJ. In a sentence such as "We have also to pay for the school trip of our children, considering/including which our expenses this month will add up to more than 40,000" (say rupees). "considering/including are prepositions here, right? Would 'using' follow the same formula? Nov 6, 2016 at 12:28
  • Yes, "considering" and "including" are prepositions here. The relative phrase is the PP "considering/including which". This time "which" is complement of the prep "considering/including and the antecedent of "which" is interpreted as "our payment for the school trip". We understand that "Including/considering your payment for the school trip, your expenses this month will add up to more than 40,000 rupees.
    – BillJ
    Nov 6, 2016 at 18:03
  • considering/including are functioning the same as "using" in the original sentence; they are not prepositions
    – eques
    Nov 15, 2016 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


In your example "Using" is a participle — a form of verb having the qualities of both verbs and adjectives. It qualifies the 'key' with which he slit open the package and "Using... Package" is a nonrestrictive clause. We have intentionally substituted 'USING' by 'WITH' to show you that you have already answered your own question.

Essential/restrictive/defining/integrated or by wherever term we name such clauses, we cannot get rid of such clauses if we like to and they don't have commas before and after the sentence with relative pronoun with or without a preposition or participle.

As regards WHICH -vs- THAT, they substitute noun phrases in the source sentence and discharge the dual role of connecting the clause to a noun as well as becoming the structural part of the clause itself. Though the borderline between these two relative pronouns is defacing as to their uses, it is more or less agreed that a defining or non defining Clause can accept WHICH but THAT is restricted to defining clauses only. In written English we use a ' comma' before non restrictive clause as in your example; so that supports our use of WHICH here.

Again if it is a restrictive clause but preceded by a preposition, we always use ' which '.

  • We have got some balls with which (X thatX)you can play.

Your example sentence may be viewed as an extension of an immediately preceding (pied piped) preposition which accepts only WH– forms.

What if we use THAT? 'That' in that event would become 'pointy that', a demonstrative pronoun losing its relative nature and the structure would necessitate an altogether different rendering perhaps like one hereinbelow:

  • ... and using that...

To be precise, participle clauses are adjective clauses. Yours is an example of adjective clause nonrestrictive by nature. The relative pronoun WHICH in this construction undergoes internal movement within the pied piped participle.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .