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Which one is grammatically correct, or better?

Very few of those who do not speak english are promoted to managerial positions.

Very few of whom do not speak english are promoted to managerial positions.

I believe the second one is more formal and academic but a little bit old-fashioned. Am I correct?

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  • Who do "those" and "whom" refer to?
    – BillJ
    Jan 16, 2021 at 10:39
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    No, the second one is not a valid sentence. Very few of whom has to refer to a group of people previously mentioned. "The children, very few of whom had been there before, soon got lost in the wood." Jan 16, 2021 at 11:02

1 Answer 1

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The second sentence is incomplete. Using whom in this way forms a relative clause, which is a type of subordinate clause, but the sentence lacks a subject for the relative clause to describe.

Many foreign employees, very few of whom do not speak english, are promoted to managerial positions.

Now the sentence is complete because the relative clause has a noun to describe, but the meaning of the sentence has changed significantly.

Your first sentence is correct because the relative clause "who do not speak english" has the noun "those" to describe.


A final note: you may have noticed that relative clauses are only sometimes separated by commas. A good guideline is to not use commas if the sentence sounds incomplete with the relative clause removed. Using your first sentence as an example:

Very few of those are promoted to managerial positions.

We are left asking, those what? So you don't use commas because the relative clause is important for the meaning of the sentence.

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  • It is possible that the antecedent is located in a previous sentence, and the relative clause thus a non-defining one. We can't tell, of course, without further context.
    – BillJ
    Jan 17, 2021 at 8:51

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