May one write something like: "We shall need many snarks to this end. However, they can be fed carrots and the latter are cheap this year. Which makes me hope..."?

  • Sure, Which also functions as that, whenever you feel unsure about using which, try to figure out that question with that. Check this out: manythings.org/sentences/words/which/1.html – Davyd Dec 31 '16 at 12:28
  • 2
    Supplementary (non-restrictive) relative clauses with the form of a main clause are not common but they do occur. They are always of the wh type and can never be introduced with "that". In your example, the relative pronoun "which" is anaphoric by virtue of having the entire previous clause as antecedent. We understand that the fact that they can be fed carrots and the latter are cheap this year makes me hope ... – BillJ Dec 31 '16 at 13:06
  • 1
    One situation where they do occur is when an entire paragraph is the antecedent for "which". In situations like that, the relative clause must take the form of a new sentence since "which" does not refer to only the preceding clause, but several clauses. It's not poor style at all. – BillJ Dec 31 '16 at 18:53

Your sentence, when put on the page, would typically be punctuated as follows, with the relative clause not starting a new (typographic) sentence :

...the latter are cheap this year, which makes me hope...


... the latter are cheap this year—which makes me hope...

The antecedent of which in this case is not a particular noun but the nominal idea expressed in the preceding statement(s), and so the which-clause is tacked onto the preceding sentence, so to speak, adding new information rather than modifying a previous word or phrase.

An alternative would be:

... the latter are cheap this year, and this makes me hope...

where this again refers back to the idea expressed in the preceding clause(s) rather than to a particular word or phrase.

  • So, is your answer - No? – Serguei Dec 31 '16 at 14:25
  • 1
    @Serguei - correct; you would normally begin a new phrase with "which", but not a new sentence, because the which-phrase is just explaining something about something else in the sentence. – stangdon Dec 31 '16 at 15:48
  • Thus, when I see such a sentence (I do every now and then) I should take it for a sign of poor style or, say, an archaism? – Serguei Dec 31 '16 at 17:52
  • 1
    No, you would just take it as an example of the fact that punctuation is merely a set of agreed-upon conventions which can vary, depending on the type of publication (newspaper, magazine, academic journal, blog, fiction, and so forth) and on other factors too (year/century of publication, country of publication, etc). But typically, as I said, you would not see a new sentence in situations like your example. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 31 '16 at 18:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.