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He went inside to find his keys, at which point he discovered the note.

In this sentence, does 'which' (a relative determiner) substitute for the entire clause 'He went inside to find his keys'? I am aware of sentential relative clauses, so I'm assuming that it acts in the same way.

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  • Parse it as if it was He went inside and found his keys, at which point he discovered the note, if you're having problems conceptualising which particular point in time is being referred to here (it's the moment when he found his keys). The example as given could be seen as slightly ambiguous, in that he could have found the note as soon as he entered (and in principle he might never have found his keys, despite going to look for them). Oct 11, 2021 at 14:39
  • Note that I'm only saying at which point refers to the moment when he found his keys because pragmatically that seems most likely (if someone left him a note, the obvious place to put it would be next to his keys). But the sentence structure itself is ambiguous as to which interpretation applies (was it when he entered, or when he found the keys?). Oct 11, 2021 at 14:43
  • I don't think it refers to when he found his keys. I think it refers to when he went inside. The reason he went inside was to find his keys, but at the point of going inside, he discovered the note. I suppose it could be the way FumbleFingers interpreted it. English has a lot of ambiguity sometimes. Oct 11, 2021 at 15:03
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    The relative clause is a supplementary (non-defining) one in which the relativised element is the whole of the object of "at", i.e. "which point"; this is the phrase whose interpretation is given by the antecedent, in this case the whole preceding clause “He went inside to find his keys”.
    – BillJ
    Oct 11, 2021 at 15:53
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    Yes, the entire clause is the antecedent. But it's "which point" that refers to it, not just "which".
    – BillJ
    Oct 12, 2021 at 9:52

1 Answer 1

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From BillJ's comment:

The relative clause is a supplementary (non-defining) one in which the relativised element is the whole of the object of "at", i.e. "which point"; this is the phrase whose interpretation is given by the antecedent, in this case the whole preceding clause “He went inside to find his keys”.

In simpler terms, 'which point' refers to the entire preceding clause, which is its antecedent.

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