1

"We are working in a very big ocean and within a very large search area, and so far since the aircraft went missing we have had very few leads which allow us to narrow the search area," he said.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26908884

Which of the following perception of mine is correct?

  1. We have had very few leads so far and therefore it is difficult for us to narrow the search area.

  2. We have had very few leads so far and that has allowed us to narrow the search area.

  • 1
    Not quite. Replace "which" by "that" and I believe that it'll be easier for you to understand. – Damkerng T. Apr 6 '14 at 11:44
1

As is signalled by the absence of a comma, the relative clause which allow us to narrow the search area is a restrictive clause modifying the NP very few leads. The speaker is only talking about leads of the sort which allow us to narrow the search area, not about other leads.

Presumably, however, each of these leads only allowed us to narrow the search area by a small amount. Since there are only a few of them, we have only been able to narrow the search area a little bit, so it is still very large—216,000 km2. That’s a circle with a radius of more than 250 km.

  • Hmm. What if it said, "We have had very few leads which (or that) have allowed us to narrow the search area"? The quote in the OP is a bit wonky in comparison, but is the meaning really different?. I'm actually leaning towards Damkerng's comment as a preferred answer. – Jolenealaska Apr 6 '14 at 12:25
  • @Jolenealaska Which and that are both acceptable in restrictive clauses, so Yes, the meaning is the same: "leads of the sort which have allowed us to narrow the search area". – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 6 '14 at 13:19
  • So there have have been very few leads to narrow the search area? Yes? That seems to conflict with "each of these leads has allowed us to narrow the search area". – Jolenealaska Apr 6 '14 at 13:26
  • So we assume that of the few leads we are talking about, they all narrow the search area? Other leads aren't a part of this sentence? – Jolenealaska Apr 6 '14 at 13:34
  • @Jolene The search area has been narrowed, but only by a little because there have been so few leads. It still covers over 200,000 square km. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 6 '14 at 13:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.