It's a son of my friend which is twenty years old.

In this sentence, which refers to which one, my friend or son? Is there any usual rule here?

On the other hand, how can I do if I want to use which to refer to the other one?

  • Shouldn't it read "A son.." or "The son.."? IT is not likely ever used to identify people. – G Warner Mar 20 at 4:10
  • Thanks for reminding, I have corrected it now. – yixuan Mar 20 at 4:17
  • That should be HE and WHO, not IT and WHICH. But the actual construction is inherently ambiguous - it could be either the friend OR his son who's 20. – FumbleFingers Mar 20 at 12:56

While on the face of it your friend is the one who is twenty years old, the sentence can be understood the other way. Context would be important. If a heavy banging on the door is heard and somebody asks "Who is that?" then your sentence would not be understood to mean your 20yo friend's toddler son.

If clarity is needed without context I would suggest "It's the son of my twenty year old friend", or "It's the twenty year old son of my friend."


'It's' is inappropriate; you should use 'He's'. Similarly, 'which' is inappropriate; you should use 'who'. Thus

'[He's] a son of my friend [who] is twenty years old.'

The relative pronoun 'who' refers to 'my friend'.

Modifiers are deemed to modify nouns closest to them. If you want to modify 'son', you can say

'He, who is twenty years old, is a son of my friend.'

  • "It's" can be used sometimes, eg Who is it? It's a son of my friend. But "who" is definitely needed. – Peter Mar 20 at 6:15
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    Using "it" to refer to people is common (It's me). And one thing needs to point out is that using 'who/that' instead of 'which' would be better, but 'which' is acceptable. – yixuan Mar 20 at 6:30
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    "The son... which..." is not acceptable in modern English. The 'traditional' English version of the Lord's Prayer begins "Our Father, which art in Heaven", but nowadays we say 'who', because 'which' sounds so odd in this context. – Kate Bunting Mar 20 at 9:31

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