I know anaphora, antecedents or relative pronouns; what bothers me most is the placement of relative clauses in a sentence. The structure of the complex sentence or compound sentence is such that I have to write the relative clause distanced from the antecedent. For example:

  • Open at page ten of your history book prescribed by your school which carries a picture of an octopus.

Now the question is:-

  • Who carries the picture? Page ten, History book or the school?

  • Is the meaning self evident?

  • Should I require a comma before "which" to make it meaningful?

I have searched internet but found contradictory opinions or repertoires at logger heads with one another. A decisive, comprehensive answer is sought for.

  • Did you mean antecedent? Feb 24, 2017 at 5:41
  • Yes, antecedent and all that follows. Feb 24, 2017 at 5:54
  • @Rompey Take this example: there's a book next to the flower vase on the table which needs to be cleaned. My interest is about the book as, in the previous example, at page 10. If use of 'at' is wrong, I may delete it. Feb 24, 2017 at 9:58
  • 1
    @BaridBaranAcharya - What is meant to be identified goes with the definite article: "There are a vase and a book on the table. The book, which is next to the vase, needs cleaning", where "which is next to the vase" is absolutely irrelevant and can be omitted without any harm to the idea expressed. And that's that.
    – Victor B.
    Feb 24, 2017 at 18:43
  • So commas placed before and after the phrase— next to... table — would make the sentence grammatically correct without effecting any other change and without raising the question of defining or non defining. Feb 24, 2017 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


On the whole, the idea behind the sentence you are working on is this:

A teacher tells the pupils to open their history books at page ten, where a picture of an octopus is.

The hidden rock is the phrase "prescribed by your school". It seems that the kids have more than one history book with them. If this is the point, they are to take a definite history book, the one prescribed by their school, and open it at a certain page.

So the sentence may be written like this:

Take your history books prescribed by your school and open them at page ten, where a picture of an octopus is.

Here, no comma is needed before "prescribed by your school" for it identifies the book to be taken, and a comma before "where" shows that once the page is numbered, the information about the picture is given to the kids just to help them find the page easier and in fact is not absolutely necessary.

  • The sentence may be written the other way round. Can such a sentence be acceptable? Where to place the relative clause? Are such sentences as that ungrammatical? Save reorientation, no other option available ?— a really problematic area for ESL students. Feb 24, 2017 at 10:34
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    "Open at page ten of your history book" is ungrammatical. And "prescribed by your school" is superfluous and so is "history" at a history lesson. "Where a picture of an octopus is" might be added for very small kids, especially if that particular page has no number. If you wanted a clear explanation of relative clauses, your example doesn't seem to fit what you may expect to read in the answer. IMO;)
    – Victor B.
    Feb 24, 2017 at 11:13

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