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I'm reading a book about how to introduce healthy food choices in everyday life. Here, the author is talking about healthy food choices in american elementary schools.

We later learned that three of the town’s elementary schools had replaced fund-raisers involving candy sales with “walking marathons” in which kids got donations for participating. One school raised $20,000—every penny of which it got to keep.

I don't understand the meaning of the last part of the sentence.

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An inversion has happened because the last part is a relative clause.

We understand that:

One school raised $20000, and it got to keep every penny of the $20000.

But we are using a relative pronoun, "which" to represent the indirect object "the $20000". Relative pronouns are always at the start of the clause, even when they are objects. This gives something like

One school raised $20000, which it got to keep every penny of.

But this ends in a preposition "of". The preposition has been separated from the noun it would go in front of. For some writers, this is poor style (and some consider it a mistake). We can move the preposition

One school raised $20000, of which it got to keep every penny.

Oo we can move the whole object phrase to the front.

One school raised $20000, every penny of which it got to keep.

And that is your sentence, except for some details of punctuation.

  • Worth pointing out: The notion that this is a "mistake" is largely falling out of favor. A quote from Your Dictionary: At one time, schoolchildren were taught that a sentence should never end with a preposition. However, this is a rule from Latin grammar that was applied to English. While many aspects of Latin have made their way into the English language, this particular grammar rule is not suited for modern English usage. – J.R. Jun 10 '18 at 9:05
  • True, but the style with the preposition in front of the relative pronoun is still quite common, especially in written language. It is a style that learners need to know about. Of the three or four ways of expressing the original sentence, the way that the original book writes it is the way that I find "best" in terms of style and flow. – James K Jun 10 '18 at 9:23
  • I agree. I just want learners to understand the modern thinking about your parenthetical statement. (Fewer and fewer people consider this a mistake anymore – it's more widely regarded as a myth.) – J.R. Jun 10 '18 at 9:27
  • So, if I understand, the meaning of the sentence is: One school raised $20000, and the school kept every single penny of the $20000 (because it was a marathon and not a candy sale, so there was no cost to cook the candies)? I'm not sure I understand the general meaning of the sentence... – Cicc Jun 10 '18 at 9:42
  • You do understand the general meaning of the sentence. Your comment is correct. – James K Jun 10 '18 at 10:36
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The phrasal verb 'get to' can be used to mean 'be able to', thus one school raised $20,000 — every penny of which it was able to keep.

Phrasal verb 'get to'

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