The original sentence is, "Looking back, it's embarrassing to recognize the degree to which my intellectual curiosity those first two years of college paralleled the interests of various women I was attempting to get to know."

I have a general idea of what this sentence might propose to mean (intellectual curiosity PARALLELED interests of women), but not as much in its grammatical structure.

Intuitively I feel like there's a lack of verb in the clause. For example, "the thing to which you're referring" has same meaning with “the thing which you're referring to”, but it seems that this method does not apply in this case.

What is "degree" referring to? Why is "to which" used here? What's the main verb of the clause?

Many thanks!

  • The matrix verb (your 'main' verb) is "be". The whole sequence commencing "degee" is the object of "recognise."
    – BillJ
    Nov 18, 2020 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


"Degree" is the direct object of "recognize". The relative pronoun "which" refers to "degree".

His intellectual curiosity paralleled the mentioned interests. They did so to some degree (maybe entirely), and that degree now embarrasses him.

You could directly replace "the degree to which" with "how much", and the meaning would be unchanged.

The quote is from "A Promised Land" by Barack Obama.:
Google Books A Promised Land

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