In the sentence below,

It also contains code to support a specific type of processors, drivers, and other functions that might need updating occasionally.

Is the target of 'that' clause 'a specific type of processors' + 'drivers' + 'other functions' or only 'other functions'?

How can I identify the target of 'that' clause if there are more than two candidates before 'that' clause?

Thank you in advance.

  • 1
    The syntax doesn't tell you - you have to figure out what the intended meaning was. Here I would read it as relating to other functions but NB this is not the same as functions because it means that processors and drivers also need updating occasionally.
    – user96060
    Jun 19, 2019 at 5:24

1 Answer 1


When you have a list of similar items, start by assuming the relative clause refers to the closest target, in this case "functions". You can then use contextual cues, or common sense, to see if it should apply to any of the other items. For example:

Her basket contains apples, oranges, and other fruits that are not spherical.

The relative clause most obviously refers to "fruits", and common sense tells us it does not refer to either apples or oranges, because these are spherical.

However, in your example, common sense should tell you that processors and drivers occasionally need to be updated, and are therefore members of the overall set of "functions that need updating occasionally". It's not about the relative clause at all. Instead the structure of the sentence can be paraphrased as:

It also contains code to support [first item], [second item], and [other items in the general group that includes both the first and second items].

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