4

According to google ngrams the second variant is more widely used:

  1. [It was cold there], what took us by surprise.

  2. [It was cold there], which took us by surprise.

Can anybody, please, explain me why? Which variant is better? Will it be a mistake to use the first one?

  • 1
    In (1) "what took us by surprise" is ungrammatical since "what" is not ordinarily allowed in relative clauses in Standard English. (2) is fine, of course. – BillJ May 1 '17 at 16:12
2
  1. It was cold there, what took us by surprise.
  2. It was cold there, which took us by surprise.

In both examples, the words in bold refer to It was cold there – a clause.

As a relative pronoun, what, unlike which, cannot be used to refer to a previous clause. Therefore, only sentence 2 is grammatical.

| improve this answer | |

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.