Modifiers are usually placed directly next to the nouns that are being modified.

But what if I need to modify a clause or a sentence holistically, such as in the following sentence:

when it comes to choosing between these two factors, which is so difficult and almost impossible, I would prefer classes with lectures to classes with open discussions for two main reasons.

In the sentence, I do not want to modify factors but the whole situation of choosing one over the other.

Is that kind of use of adjective clauses grammatically acceptable?

  • 3
    It's fine. Supplementary (non-defining) relative clauses can have virtually any expression as their semantic anchor. In your example, "which" has the clause choosing between these two factors as anchor. But note that the relative clause which is so difficult and almost impossible is not a modifier. Supplementary relatives don't modify anything; rather they merely provide additional non-essential information. The expression they refer to is called an 'anchor', which is usually the same as the antecedent.
    – BillJ
    May 15 '17 at 9:20
  • I agree with BillJ that the clause is fine and have upvoted his comment, but just specifically about word choice, I would perhaps use "quite" instead of "so." "So difficult" almost sounds a little as if we were complaining about the experience. But honestly, my comment really depends on context and the person speaking. It's probably only to my east coast American ears that this sounds like a California valley girl speaking about her first-world issues with the word "so." May 16 '17 at 10:05

The sentence is grammatical as it stands (except it needs a capital letter at the start).

It is clear that the clause in bold qualifies "choosing" and not "factors" since the singular verb "is" follows "which".

In qualifying "choosing" it effectively qualifies the whole opening clause.

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