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fibre optics:the use of very thin glass or plastic threads through which light can travel to carry information.

I am unsure about where through should go to in the relative clause.

Which of the following is correct?

A) Light can travel through glass or plastic threads to carry information.
B) Light can travel to carry information through glass or plastic threads.

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    A) is better than B).
    – BillJ
    Mar 8 '19 at 13:55
  • @BillJ Thanks :D, but is B grammatical ? Why does it now work as well as option A.
    – Kathy
    Mar 8 '19 at 15:00
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    There's something called the royal order of adverbs that is not a solid rule, but it is frequently good practice. According to that order, an adverb (or adverbial phrase) of place precedes an adverb of purpose. Getting the order wrong isn't ungrammatical, but it may sound awkward to native speakers. Mar 8 '19 at 15:43
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    Because "(in order) to carry information" is a purpose adjunct. Which means that B) is "light can travel (in order) to carry information through glass or plastic threads", which is awkward, as CY says.
    – BillJ
    Mar 8 '19 at 16:41
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Fibre optics: the use of very thin glass or plastic threads [through which light can travel to carry information].

First, there's nothing at all wrong with this sentence; it's impeccable.

In the bracketed relative clause, "which" is complement of the preposition "through" and has the nominal "very thin glass or plastic threads" as antecedent.

Your two alternants are

A) the use of very thin glass or plastic threads through which light can travel _____ to carry information.

B) the use of very thin glass or plastic threads through which light can travel to carry information _____

In both cases the gap notation '____' represents the PP "through very thin glass or plastic threads', the only difference being the linear position of gap.

I can't see any motivation for B) which postposes the PP "through very thin glass or plastic beads" over the infinitival clause adjunct "to carry information". Semantically the PP belongs more naturally with "travel".

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  • Thank you for the answer.
    – Kathy
    Mar 10 '19 at 12:03
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Both of those sentences sound awkward. From a semantic perspective, the way they are both phrased (the order doesn't matter) makes it sounds like light is travelling through glass or plastic threads in order to get to the destination of "carry information," which is bizarre and I'm sure not the intended meaning—since it's fairly meaningless.

Forgetting about the ordering of the specific words, consider the following:

Chickens can cross the road to the other side.
Rockets can travel through the atmosphere to space.
Tourists can pass through customs to another country.

Now look at the first of your sentences:

❔ Light can travel through glass or plastic thread to carry information.

(The second sentence has the same issue.)

The construction makes it sound like carry information is a destination consisting of a compound noun, rather than an activity involving a verb and a noun.


In order to prevent that puzzling interpretation, the following versions would sound much more natural:

✔ Light can travel through glass or plastic threads while carrying information.
✔ Light can carry information through glass or plastic threads.

Alternatively, you can replace carry with deliver in the following ways:

✔ Light can travel through glass or plastic threads in order to deliver information.
✔ Light can deliver information through glass or plastic threads.

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