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Consider the following pairs of sentence. The members of each pair differ in the order of a specific term and an explanation of its meaning.

a. John bought a Northern Inuit dog, which is a breed with a wolf-like appearance.

b. John bought a dog with a wolf-like appearance, which is a Northern Inuit dog.

c. John bought a Northern Inuit dog, which is a breed that looks like a wolf.

d. John bought a dog that looks like a wolf, which is a Northern Inuit dog.

Which is the more natural? What's their difference in meaning?

I'd appreciate your help.

  • A and C are natural. B and D don't work. They are the equivalent of saying: John bought a big dog, which is a breed.....etc – Ronald Sole Aug 30 at 9:24
  • If D were changed into "John bought a dog that looks like a wolf, a Northern Inuit," would it work? – Apollyon Aug 30 at 9:25
  • Yes, that's fine. – Ronald Sole Aug 30 at 10:54
  • Do you know why the deletion of "which is" makes D work? – Apollyon Aug 30 at 10:57
  • The which (acting as a pronoun) appears to modify wolf beside it, which is false. The appositive phrase, a Northern Inuit modifies dog that looks like a wolf. Perhaps this understanding depends on the reader's knowledge of Canadian dogs and wolves. Further comment welcome! – Ronald Sole Aug 30 at 14:28
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Do all Northern Inuit dogs look like wolves? or Are all dogs that look like wolves Northern Inuit dogs?

That should help you decide the order of the clauses. The clause that follows "which" should describe the noun in the first clause.

It matters little if you say "a dog that looks like a wolf" or "a dog with a wolf-like appearance" These mean the same. But note that you wouldn't say "a thing that looks like a wolf that is a dog." (for the same reason as above)

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  • Thank you. The assumption is that all Northern Inuit dogs look like wolves, but not all dogs that look like wolves are Northern Inuit dogs. If so, could you specify which sentences you think are correct in your answer? (Btw, you might want to edit the sentence beginning with "Do are all dogs ..." – Apollyon Aug 30 at 9:46
  • Thanks for the Typo, I think I'll let you think about which sentences are correct (rather than completely answering the homework) Look also at the hint in the last paragraph. – James K Aug 30 at 10:12

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