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In the following sentence, "whose" represent Nadal or a family?

Nadal was born in Manacor, Spain, in 1986 to a family of athletes whose physical talent he inherited.

The last part of the sentence seems to mean he inherited his talent from a family of athletes. So is it correct if I add "from" behind "inherited" in the sentence?

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    Snailboat explained it pretty well, but to give a very short answer, think about how you would rephrase it. "He inherited their physical talent", not "He inherited their physical talent from." – stangdon Apr 10 '18 at 1:11
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Nadal was born in Manacor, Spain, in 1986 to a family of athletes whose physical talent he inherited.

This sentence contains the relative clause "whose physical talent he inherited."

The antecedent of the genitive relative pronoun whose is the directly preceding noun phrase "a family of athletes".

The noun phrase "whose physical talent" is the direct object of the verb "inherited". We can see the corresponding non-relative clause if we replace the genitive relative pronoun whose with the genitive personal pronoun their and adjust the word order accordingly:

  • he inherited their physical talent

In the relative clause, the direct object "whose physical talent" comes before "he inherited" because the relative word in a relative clause always comes first, regardless of its role in the clause.

Another example would be the change in word order between an independent clause like "I saw my best friend yesterday" and a relative clause in a complex sentence like "My best friend, who(m) I saw yesterday, doesn't live in my neighborhood." Both "my best friend" and "who(m)" play the role of the direct object of the verb "saw" in these sentences.

If the relative word is part of a noun phrase or a prepositional phrase in the relative clause, the entire phrase containing the relative word may be put at the start of the relative clause: this is called "pied-piping". The sentence that you mention is an example of this phenomenon.

The word "from" is not involved anywhere, and it cannot be added to the sentence.

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  • thank you very much. Can I add "what" or "that" between talent and he inherited in the sentence, because it is a relative clause? – Stan Apr 10 '18 at 8:42
  • @Stan: The relative clause starts after "a family of athletes"; it doesn't start after "talent". So you cannot add "what" or "that" after "talent": that would be in the middle of the relative clause, and the relative word or phrase should come at the start of the relative clause (as it does, in this case: the relative word is "whose", part of the phrase "whose physical talent"). – sumelic Apr 10 '18 at 9:11
  • Thanks. I am likely misunderstanding the relative clause. Could you please kindly explain why about that "he inherited" of the sentence can be putted in the end of the relative clause ? – Stan Apr 11 '18 at 0:55
  • @Stan: It might make more sense if you think of it as " whose physical talent" being put at the start of the relative clause, rather than "he inherited" being put at the end. In a relative clause, the relative word, or the noun phrase or prepositional phrase that contains the relative word, always comes first. In the sentence that you mentioned, "whose physical talent" is the noun phrase that contains the relative word, so it comes first. – sumelic Apr 11 '18 at 1:08
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If you add from, the sentence becomes nonsensical.


First, let's look at the original sentence:

Nadal was born in Manacor, Spain, in 1986 to a family of athletes whose physical talent he inherited.

In this sentence, Nadal has inherited physical talent from his family of athletes. This makes sense.

Nadal was born in Manacor, Spain, in 1986 to a family of athletes whose physical talent he inherited from.

In this sentence, Nadal has inherited something unspecified from the physical talent of his family of athletes. We don't know what he inherited, only that the physical talent passed it down to him.

Since abstract concepts like physical talent don't generally leave inheritances, the sentence doesn't really make sense with this change. Although it's grammatical, it's nonsensical.

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