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Is the following sentence ok with whichever?

Mr. Morrison would like an employee to help customers whichever one enters the restaurant (first).

Suppose Mr. Morrison was the owner of a restaurant, and none of his employees has arrived yet. It was 11:30 in the morning, and his restaurant was already full of people. He wished his employees would show up and serve the customers. It didn't matter which of his employees would show up; just anyone would do.

  • Mr. Morrison would like the customers to be helped by whichever employee would have come first. – SovereignSun Jan 23 '18 at 12:05
  • How about "Whichever employee enters the restaurant first, Mr. Morrison would like him or her to help the customers"? – Apollyon Jan 23 '18 at 13:35
  • And "Mr. Morrison would like his employees to help the customers, whichever one enters the restaurant first"? – Apollyon Jan 23 '18 at 13:37
  • "Whichever employee enters the restaurant first, Mr. Morrison would like them to help the customers" – SovereignSun Jan 23 '18 at 13:40
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If punctuated as a disjunct afterthought it is grammatical and could be taken to modify employee, although the grammatical and the clear are not to be confused with one another.

Mr. Morrison would like an employee to help customers —whichever one i.e. employee enters the restaurant (first).

Merely the change of a few incidentals (but not the structure) will make the clausal relationship clear.

Mr Morrison would like an employee to welcome customers —whichever one is neatly dressed in his or her restaurant uniform and is ready to assume that responsibility.

Absent those details, it's not clear whether the clause applies to the customer or the employee.

The disjunct clause can be repositioned for clarity:

Mr. Morrison would like an employee—whichever one enters the restaurant first— to welcome customers. .

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  • It could be seen as a kind of apposition. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 23 '18 at 18:52
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As it stands, the whichever clause applies to the customers. To make it apply to the employees, you would have to say

Mr. Morrison would like whichever employee enters the restaurant first to help the customers.

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  • I'm curious why whichever doesn't apply to the employees. – Apollyon Jan 23 '18 at 13:00
  • @Apollyon Because a clause usually modifies the word it follows (in your case it is "customers") – SovereignSun Jan 23 '18 at 13:41

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