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“...to destroy the windmill, the building of which had aroused furious jealousy in him”

Regarding the above quote from Animal Farm, I'm confused about the use of the preposition "of" and relative pronoun "which". Please explain the above sentence in the grammatical context. Following are the structure which make sense to me.

"...to destroy the windmill, the building which had aroused furious jealousy in him"

or

"...to destroy the windmill, the building of which he had been furiously jealous."

or

".. to destroy the windmill, the building which he had been furiously jealous of."

  • "Building" is a noun that is synonymous with the noun "construction". The antecedent "the windmill" is anaphoric to the relative word "which" that functions as complement of the preposition "of". We understand that the act of building the windmill had aroused furious jealousy in him. "Building" can only be a noun since it has the determiner "the", and an of preposition phrase as complement, which verbs cannot. – BillJ Oct 3 '18 at 8:51
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In this sentence, building is not a noun representing the physical structure of the windmill: it is a gerund- a verb form relating to the construction of the windmill. Here is another way of saying the same thing:

... to destroy the windmill, [because] the process of building it had aroused furious jealousy in him

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    I got it, it can also be "... to destroy the windmill, construction of which had aroused furious jealousy in him". Thanks. – Sajad Khan Oct 3 '18 at 8:29
  • Right idea, but we would say "the construction of which" – JavaLatte Oct 3 '18 at 8:30
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First, you cannot remove the preposition without changing the meaning.

the building which

Here, building is used as a noun, synonymous with structure.

the building of which

Here, building is used as a verb, and what's being referred to is an activity.


None of your alternate suggestions retain the original meaning of the sentence.

Here is a rephrasing that does:

 . . . to destroy the windmill whose construction had aroused furious jealousy in him

(Some people may object to the use of whose with an inanimate object, but it's not actually ungrammatical—more a matter of style—and I'm only using it to demonstrate the original sentence's meaning.)

  • Thanks, I'm clear on this and I came up with the same example, "construction", but I used "construction of which" and you use "whose construction" also pointing that it may appear ungrammatical. Which is better to use? – Sajad Khan Oct 3 '18 at 8:35
  • They are both grammatical, although the construction of which is more common. (But you had questioned of, so I didn't use it in my rephrased version.) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 3 '18 at 8:42
  • In "the building of which", "building" can only be a noun, since verbs don't take of PP complements. – BillJ Oct 3 '18 at 8:46
  • And of course it has the determiner "the", which verbs cannot have. – BillJ Oct 3 '18 at 8:57

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