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In the passing away of Mr XYZ, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation’s imagination and...

Q: Do we need the comma after "sportsperson"? With the comma, does "who" refer to "colossal sportsperson in general"?

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    The presence or absence of a comma doesn't change the meaning. If the rest of the sentence is quite long, the comma provides a 'breathing space'. Jun 19 at 7:11
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    Your example contains what appears to be a defining relative clause, so no comma is required. Defining relatives are modifiers, while non-defining ones are supplements -- loosely attached non-modifying elements. Either way, "who" refers" to "colossal sportsperson"
    – BillJ
    Jun 19 at 7:29
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    @BillJ it can be interpreted in both ways. I mean it can be a defining or a non defining relative clause. And accordingly the comma. Jun 19 at 14:38
  • @Man_From_India I disagree. It's clearly a defining relative, modifying "colossal sportsperson". The information given in the relative clause is an integral part of the larger message: it plays an essential part in defining who is being said to capture the nation's imagination. Not all sportspeople capture the nation's imagination. A non-defining one would make little sense here.
    – BillJ
    Jun 19 at 14:49
  • @BillJ I understand, still I think it is both ways. The mention of Mr. XYZ, already identifies the sportsperson. Yes I too agree with your point but I still can see point of it being interpreted as non defining. Jun 19 at 14:52
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...we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation’s imagination and...

... and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians.

My take on it is that in the context of the quote, the absence of a comma would show that the "who captured the nation's imagination and..." part, to the person being quoted, is the essential bit of information about the deceased.

At the same time, since the phrase following "who" is quite long, the comma would provide the "breathing space" @Katy Bunting has mentioned.

Besides, either with or without the comma, there wouldn't appear any ambiguity reading and understanding the whole sentence.

With the comma, does "who" refer to "colossal sportsperson in general"?

Paraphrased as "What is the "who" referred to--the person's name or his occupation?", the question could be answered: "Depending on whether you decided to put or not to put the comma. With the comma, it would be the person's name, and without it--his occupation."

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  • @BillJ - I'm not into gainsaying you, being an ESL learner. Yet, with all due respect, I still can't see what essential to the fact of the death of the said great sportsperson is the information about him having captured the nation's imagination, having had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians, and so on-- the list of what else he was known, famous, and will be remembered for may be continued. Best always:)
    – Victor B.
    Jun 19 at 12:59

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