In this context:

Most of our clients have issues because of their limited knowledge. It is very stressful to repeat the same things to all of them, knowledge that should be basic for them.

I'm told it's considered an ungrammatical phrase, but I don't understand why.

Additional information: my b2 english teacher told me

Here's his explanation:This particular sentence is actually a subordinate clause that provides a sentence element with additional information, but which cannot stand as a sentence on its own. A subordinate clause can either modify an adjacent clause or serve as a component of an independent clause, meaning that it is dependent and requires an additional clause.Moreover, the noun ‘knowledge’ is commonly preceded and not followed by a verb, e.g. ‘acquire knowledge’, ‘have knowledge’, ‘use knowledge’, etc. And finally, the noun ‘knowledge’ does not collocate with the verb ‘to be’ that often, because of the above-mentioned rule. Attached you shall find a screenshot of the Oxford Collocations Dictionary which gives all the verbs the noun ‘knowledge’ collocates with. Now, let’s take a look at the sentence ‘The customers should have some basic knowledge.’ This is an independent clause and thus a sentence that can stand on its own. The noun ‘knowledge’ is preceded by the verb ‘have’ which is at the same time a verb that this noun usually collocates with.

  • Seems like you already have a detailed answer.
    – James K
    Mar 22 '20 at 17:16
  • but I still don't understand why the sentence is agrammatical, I think it's not, that's why I was looking for a second opinion
    – Diego
    Mar 22 '20 at 17:31

As your teacher said, the phrase is a subordinate clause, but it doesn't relate to anything in the main clause.

Instead you should either rephrase as a separate sentence of properly embed the noun phrase in the main clause. When doing this we can make it more idiomatic by noting that we "have knowledge".

It is very stressful to repeat to all of them the same basic knowledge that they should already have.

  • doesn't relate to anything in the main clause? It seems to me there's a pretty obvious parallel between the same things they need to be told and the knowledge they should have already. Maybe I'd have used a semicolon or a dash instead of a comma for the written version, but I don't see any problem with the basic construction. Mar 22 '20 at 18:24
  • As the companion comment indicates, I constructed the sentence with this parallelism in mind: I understand that the subordinate clause 'knowledge that should be basic for them' is related to the main clause 'It is very stressful to repeat the same things to all of them' since we introduce the relative pronoun knowledge that, which refers to the knowledge referred to in the main clause, 'repeat the same things of all of them' this would be the knowledge that is being referred to, therefore, what is wrong with my reasoning
    – Diego
    Mar 22 '20 at 18:40

You appear to be attempting to use a parenthetical subordinate clause (something stated as an aside to the main sentence) by separating it from the sentence with commas. You can do this, but when the parenthetical expression is a subordinate clause (it's relating to some specific element of the sentence) you have to be careful about where the clause is placed in the sentence.

A subordinate clause is tied to the noun which immediately precedes it. What you appear to be trying to say here is that "the same things" are also "knowledge that should be basic for them", so you want your clause to be tied to "the same things". However, you haven't placed "knowledge that should be basic for them" after "the same things" in the sentence. You have placed it after "them", so what the sentence is actually saying is that "they" (people) are actually "knowledge ...", which makes no sense.

Rearranging it in the following way would be grammatically correct, because it places the subordinate clause after the noun it is actually intended to modify:

It is very stressful to repeat the same things, knowledge that should be basic for them, to all of them.

But while that is correct, it is a bit wordy and awkward, so most people would not actually say it that way.

For a more idiomatic form, there are a few things to note:

  • "things, knowledge" right next to each other seems a bit repetitive/redundant.
  • repetition of "them, ... them" in close proximity has an odd feel.
  • "basic knowledge" is actually something of a set phrase in English, meaning that it is usually said in that way, and not split apart into separate words.

So a more idiomatic (while still correct) way to say the same thing might be:

It is very stressful to repeat the same things, which should be basic knowledge, to all of them.

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.