Please, look at the bolded which it is in the following passage. I don't think it is a relative pronoun, but I can't find which used as a conjunction in a number of dictionaries. How is which used in the sentence? I'm sorry I couldn't find the source of this passage.

Whenever our urge is to fight a specific biological change, we should ask the following triplet of questions. Will our efforts have made much difference a few hundred years hence? If not, this means we are fighting a battle we will inevitably lose. Next, will our great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren be that bothered if the state of the world has been altered, given that they will not know exactly how it is today? If the answer to this second question is no, this means we are fighting battles we do not need to win. If change is inevitable, which it is, we should then ask a third question: how can we maximize the benefits that our descendants derive from the natural world? In other words, how can we promote changes that might be favourable to the future human condition, as well as avoid the losses of species that might be important in unknown ways in future?

2 Answers 2


I agree with Jason that it is a relative word, not a conjunction. However, relative pronouns usually refer to a preceding noun (except for sentential "which").

In this case, it is at least curious that it refers to an adjective. I don't think the antecedent is "inevitable change", but just "inevitable", the relative clause being more or less equivalent to the far less idiomatic:

  • If change is inevitable, and inevitable change is, we should then ask...

Within the relative clause, "which" is the subject complement, and "it" (standing for "change") is the subject of the clause.

Another example without a noun will show my point more clearly:

  • If you are interested, which you surely are, don't hesitate to ask.

It is clear that "which" refers to the participle "interested".


The phrase you have in bold is a parenthetical aside. It could be removed without changing the essential meaning of the sentence.

In other words, which is certainly not a conjunction—because it's not being used to join anything together. Syntactically speaking, it's part of a phrase that's simply extra information—or nonessential.

In this case, which remains a pronoun (referring back to inevitable change), and it remains part of a relative clause—even though the phrase it's part of is nonrestrictive. In short, it is still a relative pronoun.

From "Editing Tip: Parenthetical Elements":

A parenthetical element is information that is nonessential to the meaning of a sentence, such as an example, a clarification, or an aside. This type of sentence component may include the following types of clauses and phrases, as long as the information is nonrestrictive:

  • Relative clauses, which commonly begin with which, who/whom/whose, where, or when
  • Appositives, or nouns or phrases that rename preceding nouns or phrases
  • Participial phrases, or verb-based phrases that describe preceding nouns
  • Prepositional phrases, or preposition-based phrases that often describe preceding nouns
  • Phrases beginning with such as, including, e.g., or i.e.

The supplementary information provided by a parenthetical element is typically enclosed by two commas, parentheses, or dashes, separating the nonessential material from the rest of the text. Although these punctuation marks have a common purpose, the content of their associated text and their level of emphasis of this text may vary.

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