I read a sentence in Word by Word by Kory Stamper which was:

Steve and Madeline both have an abundance of plants in their cubicles; one of our cross-reference editors has set up pictures of her cats (and other people's cats) along the long banked bookshelf each of us has to keep multiple dictionaries open at once.

The part I have a question about is the highlighted one. Since it is a relative clause and its antecedent is "bookshelf" (I suppose), I think there should have been "upon" or some preposition like that after "upon" to relate it to the antecedent "bookshelf". Am I right?

1 Answer 1


The relative clause is "[that] each of us has". After that, there is a to-infinitive clause that explains the purpose of the shelf. The purpose of the shelf is so that they can keep multiple dictionaries open at once. Yes, the dictionaries will be placed on the shelf, but placing the dictionaries on the shelf is not the direct purpose.

  • @JavaLatte- Got it. It boils down to my wrong identification of the relative clause. But one thing that I would like to ask is shouldn't there have been a comma after "has" for better interpretation?
    – kelvin
    Jan 29, 2020 at 7:51
  • Generally, a comma is required if presenting information that is not essential to the understanding of the sentence, In this case there should be no comma, because the purpose is essential. An alternative way of improving readability would be to replace to by in order to.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 29, 2020 at 8:09
  • 1
    I'm pretty widely read and I found the sentence confusing at first glance. I think it needs so as before to keep. Jan 29, 2020 at 9:25

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