I wrote the sentence

I became the most successful student at the university with this study technique who many professors congratulated.

However, I am pretty unsure about the position of the relative clause "who many professors congratulated".

It is at the end and too far away from the noun "student" it refers to. On the other hand, "became" is a stative verb and we usually use relative clauses at the end in sentences with a stative verb.

In my opinion, the sentence is grammatically correct, what do you think?

  • 4
    There's a strong argument for including a comma before who. The sentence is inherently clumsy (because the target of who is such a long phrase), but it's perfectly grammatical. Personally though, I'd rephrase that final clause to [comma] congratulated by many professors (or replace the comma by and was, which would also make the text much easier to parse than OP's "top heavy" original). Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:04
  • 2
    As it is, it makes it sound like the study technique is being congratulated by the professors (though if that was the intent, it should be "which" rather than "who").
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:53
  • 1
    In addition to the problems pointed out by @FumbleFingers, there's also the one of yoking the most successful student with who many professors congratulated. The restrictive relative doesn't play well with the definite article since the implication is that there were multiple students congratulated by these many professors and you were the most successful of them. I don't think that's your intended meaning. I think you want a simple and (...and was congratulated for it by many professors).
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 14:24
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo: Good point. I didn't even notice the possibility of that particular "perverse" interpretation (that OP was the most successful of multiple students using this technique who were congratulated). But although I only said there's a strong argument [for including a comma], it seems at least possible the comma needs to be present because it's actually required by some kind of grammatical rule. Sadly, I don't know much about "rules of grammar" like this - but it seems like the kind of thing you might know. Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 14:34
  • 2
    Perhaps if you were to begin with With this study technique..... With this study technique I became the most successful student at the university. And now we simply have to decide the simplest way to add the information that many professors congratulated you -- but was it for being the best student, or for this method?
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


The problem with using "who many professors congratulated" as a relative clause is that it's supposed to modify a noun. But "with this study technique" modifies the entire phrase "became the most successful student". So "student" is no longer a separate noun; it's a noun within a predicate. You have to teat "became the most successful student" as a unit to parse "with this study technique", but then you have to separate it out again for it to be modified by "who many professors congratulated".

Another issue is that even if we were to take out "with this study technique", it would be ambiguous as to what "who many professors congratulated". Although the interpretation "I became the most successful (student who many professors congratulated)" can be dismissed from a logical point of view, it can't be dismissed from a grammatical one. You can fix both issues by saying

"I became the most successful student at the university with this study technique, and many professors congratulated me."

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