What should your position be , relative to your friend in a row ?

For example , teacher or commander told us to form a line . But I don't know where I will stand either behind my friend or in front of my friend? In this case I asked to my teacher what I should ask? He said me the sentence above . I asked him If I can say sentence below . He said yes . But I couldn’t understand what comma means here .Is it relative clause which modife the word ''position'' . I mean shouldn’t “relative to your friend “ be after “position”? I mean would it means same if I say;

What should your position that is relative to your friend be in a row ?

  • If I was your commander, I would be very annoyed by such a question. I told you to form a line. I just expect you all to get in a line quickly and quietly. I wouldn't expect any questions about who goes in of whom. – James K Jan 17 at 20:37

This is not a relative clause, but a clarifying phrase. Consider this example:

I want a dog, a big one.

The phrase "a red one" is not a sentence or even a clause, but it adds detail. We understand this to mean the same as "I want a big dog", but in speech we sometimes add details in phrases like this. It also has some rhetorical effect (we give more weight to words at the end, so this gives more weight to "big")

It is correct to ask

What should my position be, relative to my friend in the row.

I'd understand this in speech as being a clarifying phrase and meaning:

What should my position in the row relative to my friend be?

However this is a very unnatural expression. Far more natural could be

Should I stand behind my friend?

Moreover, I'd find any such question annoying. Just line up! If the order mattered I'd have told you. I didn't tell you, so I don't care if you are in front of, or behind.

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  • I understand you it is realy annoying for a commander but I just need to be taught by knowledgeable native speaker like you. If I use my second sentence , would it be grammatically correct or does it have different meaning ? – language learner Jan 17 at 20:57
  • The second sentence is incorrect. As I said, "relative to my friend" is not a relative clause. But why do you need to know that? – James K Jan 17 at 21:11
  • If I say ;”What should your position that is relative to your friend be “ by deleting “in a row” Would it mean something like we discuss on different thing than the way of my position because it sounds like my position relative to my friend is known in advance when I use relative clause .This why it doesn’t make sense . – language learner Jan 17 at 22:51
  • "What should your position that is relative to your friend be" Doesn't make sense. It wouldn't mean anything. – James K Jan 17 at 23:02

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