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SSL protocol is the predecessor of the TLS protocol used to secure network communications.

In this sentence the world "used" is related to the "SSL protocol" or "TLS protocol"? How can I know that? How can I change that?

In addition, I'm not sure how to correctly formulate my question in general, about this kind parts of speech relations. Perhaps if I formulated it correctly, I would've found the answer in Google or SE.

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The sentence is fine. Used is referencing TLS, but in this case it doesn't matter which term is modified because they're both being used for the same thing.

However, if you wanted to be sure about the distinction you could use "and" or "which."

SSL protocol is the predecessor of the TLS protocol, and was used to secure network communications.

Here, "secure network communications" unambiguously refers to SSL protocol.

SSL protocol is the predecessor of the TLS protocol, which is used to secure network communications.

The which indicates that you're talking about the immediately preceding noun.

| improve this answer | |
  • "The which indicates that you're talking about the immediately preceding noun." So the "which" also references the "TLS" that way? So I can't use some punctuation or extra word to refer it to the "SSL" without changing the sentence? – Anton Aug 12 '19 at 18:49
  • The "and" construction lets you do that. Edited to make it a bit clearer. – pip install frisbee Aug 12 '19 at 18:56
  • Okay, thank you. That clarifies things more. But could you also point me to the right topic of English grammar about these things maybe? – Anton Aug 12 '19 at 19:22
  • @Anton There is no absolute rule about what the referent of a pronoun is. All you can go by is context, what's idiomatic, and what's most commonly assumed to be the case. – Jason Bassford Aug 12 '19 at 19:43
  • @JasonBassford Understood, thanks. – Anton Aug 12 '19 at 19:50

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