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Find the mistake in each of the following sentences:

  1. Oil is an important tropical material that can be processed into many different products.

  2. I am sorry, I cannot see what do you mean.


My thoughts :

In first sentence: I am not sure the mistake in “that” and it will be “which” or the mistake in “tropical” and it will be “financial”

In second sentence: i think i will remove “do”

closed as off-topic by Andrew, Varun Nair, laugh, kiamlaluno, SovereignSun Dec 4 '17 at 14:16

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  • Is this from a test? – Peter Nov 27 '17 at 19:11
  • From assignment – Aly Khaled Nov 27 '17 at 19:12
  • Can you please elaborate on what you think might be wrong? Otherwise, this might be considered as proofreading. – Peter Nov 27 '17 at 19:21
  • Possible duplicate of which vs that in complex sentences – sammy gerbil Nov 27 '17 at 19:28
  • I wouldn't call oil a material whereas it's actually a substance. The rest of first sentence is fine to me. In the second sentence "do" is definitely wrong. – SovereignSun Nov 28 '17 at 4:26
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You are correct about both sentences.

In the 1st sentence the grammatical mistake (if there is one) is the use of that instead of which. The use of tropical in place of financial is a possible factual mistake, which a student of English might not be expected to know, but it is not a grammatical mistake which a student of English ought to know.

The American blogger in Writers' Digest suggests the following test :

If the sentence doesn’t need the clause that the word in question is connecting, use which. If it does, use that.

The first clause can stand by itself ("Oil is an important tropical material") without losing or altering the meaning. So according to American English usage we should use which here. It should also be preceded by a comma :

Oil is an important tropical material, which can be processed into many different products.

Such a non-essential use is termed non-restrictive. However, as Clare implies in a comment, in this sentence it is also possible to interpret the subordinate clause as being essential information which is required to identify which kind of the many important tropical materials oil is. Such a restrictive interpretation requires the use of that in American English. A slight alteration makes this clearer :

Oil is one of the important tropical materials that can be processed into many different products.

In British English the use of which (without a preceding comma) in place of that is accepted in such restrictive cases. See Oxford Living Dictionaries.

Oil is an important tropical material which can be processed into many different products.


In the 2nd sentence the word "do" is not required. "What do you mean?" is a sentence on its own :

"I'm sorry, I cannot see. What do you mean?"

  • 1
    There's nothing wrong with the use of that in Oil is an important tropical material that can be processed into many different products. Either which or that can be used. If the clause is nonrestrictive, we use which and not that, as in Oil is an important tropical material, which can be processed into many different products. – AmE speaker Nov 28 '17 at 1:28
  • In addition, the information given by the author of the Writers' Digest blog about using only that for restrictive clauses gives his preference; but he is wrong to state his preference as a rule. – AmE speaker Nov 28 '17 at 1:31

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