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I want to ask my students to draw something on paper.

So I say

  1. Please draw something you think it can represent an apple.
  2. Please draw something you think that can represent an apple.
  3. Please draw something you think can represent an apple.

Which one is correct?

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  • 1
    Why don't you simply ask them to "draw an apple"? If you asked me to "draw something that I think can represent an apple", after some puzzlement, I might conclude that you want me to draw e.g a tennis ball which has been coloured red and green. Commented May 22, 2020 at 6:48
  • Sorry, actually I want to ask the children to draw things with no limit or restrictions. Just some brain-storming... Commented May 22, 2020 at 6:49
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    I agree with Michael. I would have no idea what you by "represent an apple" If you want "no restrictions" then say "draw something". "That represents an apple" is a restriction. I guess you are looking for them to create abstract art. You are going to need to give them lots of examples of how artists represent things abstractly. And after you have done your half hour of examples, and assessment of learning, then they should understand that "draw an apple" doesn't mean it has to look like a photo.
    – James K
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 6:57
  • So my coloured tennis ball would fit the requirement, in a way? Commented May 22, 2020 at 7:00
  • OP should have just used a non-physical object so people don't tear apart his art class.. Please draw something you think can represent [happiness]. Would you still use it/that? No. Commented May 22, 2020 at 7:04

2 Answers 2

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  1. Please draw something you think [it] can represent an apple.

    • You think [it] can.. the listener doesn't know what it is yet.
    • Can represent an apple.. ok now we know. You should have just said this!
    • Not correct
  2. Please draw something you think [that] can represent an apple.

    • Something you think [that]... The listener doesn't know what that is yet, so why say it?
    • Not correct (edited)- see James Answer
  3. Please draw something you think can represent an apple.

    • Command (Please draw something) + Who (you think) + What (can represent an apple).
    • Correct, and most clear to an English listener because they can process each part as they come without having to remember and reference back to a previous unknown (such as it or that) once they hear the object of the command.
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    Why this answer got a -1 ? For who vote down this answer, would you please explain it? Thanks Commented May 22, 2020 at 6:47
  • 1
    @AGamePlayer yes #2 is incorrect post changed. James is correct. Commented May 22, 2020 at 7:24
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You have the base clause:

You think it can represent an apple

And we are using this as a relative clause. The relative pronoun "that" will stand for the object, but with relative clauses, the pronoun comes to the head of the phrase, or can be omitted completely:

I like the dog. -> an animal that(object) I like -> an animal I like.

You don't use another object pronoun. "an animal I like it" (incorrect), nor do you use the relative pronoun after the verb "an animal I like that" (incorrect)

The object in your basic clause is "it" so when I form a relative clause, that is replaced by "that" at the start of the clause:

something that you think can represent an apple.

Or omitted entirely.

something you think can represent an apple.

Therefore 1 and 2 are not grammatically correct. 1) still has the pronoun "it". and 2) has "that" in the wrong position.

As I noted in a comment. If I would have no idea what you mean by "represent an apple", unless you had given me lots of instruction and examples of how artists "represent".

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