For example, guest PTEs for which shadow PTEs have been constructed may be write-protected.

OK, so which one is correct:

  1. The point is shadow PTEs. It's constructed for guest PTEs and it's write-protected.
  2. The point is guest PTEs and it's write-protected. While the author mentioned that the shadow PTEs that is somehow related to it.

What is the point? Could you use another simple sentence without "for which" to help me understand the important part of this sentence?

  • 7
    I don't know what you think it means to start a sentence off with the words The point is ..., but you're probably mistaken. It's true that your "original" text explicitly makes the point that it's giving an example, but there's no reason why any rephrased versions should include the words The point is... Jan 5, 2022 at 16:20
  • @FumbleFingers: Thank you for the advice! I was so bad at translating(?) the meaning.
    – Rain
    Jan 5, 2022 at 17:18
  • 2
    My rephrasing might be just For example, guest PTEs with shadow PTEs can be write-protected. Or more straightforwardly, perhaps, You can write-protect guest PTEs with shadow PTEs. Jan 5, 2022 at 17:26
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers A disadvantage of your last version: It can be read as Using shadow PTEs, you can write-protect guest PTEs (i.e., the "with" of means or instrument). Consider "that have" for "with".
    – nanoman
    Jan 6, 2022 at 5:54
  • @nanoman: There's nothing wrong with "hypothetical" ambiguity. I'm assuming almost anyone likely to be reading this statement "for real" (as opposed to the artificial context of people like me reading it here on a language site) would realise your interpretation made no sense. So even if any "real" readers did notice the possibility of that "perverse" interpretation, they'd immediately dismiss it anyway. I'm also not convinced it's a good idea for "technical spec" text to be specifically adjusted in hopes of making it easier for non-native Anglophones to understand. Jan 6, 2022 at 18:12

3 Answers 3


The subject of the sentence is guest PTEs. The main verb is the modal may be. For which begins a phrase that describes the subject.

We could think of it like this:
Guest PTEs can be write-protected.
Which guest PTEs?
The ones that we constructed shadow PTEs for.

You can think of for which as a kind of reordering of "Guest PTEs which shadow PTEs have been constructed for may be write-protected."

  • 2
    This is formally correct, but "a preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with". The use of "for which" instead of ".. have been constructed for" is a more fluent way of stating the dependency. Jan 6, 2022 at 8:36
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    @ChristopherHamkins The existence of this question demonstrates that rearranging a sentence and introducing qualifiers such as ‘for which’, simply to avoid ending with a preposition, doesn't necessarily make it clearer to everyone…
    – gidds
    Jan 6, 2022 at 9:24
  • 1
    I find this interesting, as the rule about not ending sentences with prepositions specifically came from translating English into other languages (specifically Latin) where you can't put a preposition at the end of a sentence.
    – trlkly
    Jan 6, 2022 at 9:49
  • 2
    @ChristopherHamkins A preposition is a perfectly fine and normal thing to end a sentence with. The adage that sentences should not end in prepositions is complete balderdash and always has been. It’s one of the most harmful ‘rules’ ever taught, decrying natural, well-flowing English sentences as ‘wrong’ and putting stilted, unidiomatic constructions in their place. Jan 6, 2022 at 14:22
  • 1
    @ChristopherHamkins In Latin, certain morphemes could be used as both prefixes and prepositions. In English, we tend to use sentence-ending "prepositions" to convey the same meaning that was carried by prefixed Latin verbs, something that was never done in Latin. Compare this to German separable verbs, which have a prefix in the infinitive but when conjugated the prefix is "separated" from the verb and moved to the end of the clause.
    – chepner
    Jan 6, 2022 at 15:16

I read it as

For example, guest PTEs for which shadow PTEs have been constructed may be write-protected.

It's the guest PTEs that may be write-protected. Some guest PTEs have shadow PTEs constructed for them.

  • No, it is only the the guest PTEs with shadow PTEs that may be write protected, not those without shadow PTEs. Jan 6, 2022 at 8:33
  • 1
    @ChristopherHamkins that is ambiguous in the original sentence. While it explicitly states that guest PTEs for which shadow PTEs have been constructed may be write protected it doesn't exclude other guest PTEs from being write protected.
    – charmer
    Jan 6, 2022 at 10:37
  • 1
    @AndrewTobilko, in a mathematically strict sense you are correct, but the formulation implies that only guest PTEs with shadow PTEs may be write protected since otherwise the "for which ..." clause could have simply been omitted. Jan 6, 2022 at 10:58
  • @ChristopherHamkins we don't know what makes guest PTEs write-protected (or I couldn't sense it in the sentence). Jan 6, 2022 at 11:20
  • As written, there may be (unstated) circumstances under which non-shadowed guest PTES could be write-protected as well. If being shadowed were the only condition under which they could be, then you would expect that to be stated in the question with the word "only".
    – chepner
    Jan 6, 2022 at 15:33

For me it clearly is trying to say:

For example guest PTEs may be write-protected if they have had shadow PTEs constructed for them

in other words:

For example guest PTEs may be write-protected if they have shadow PTEs

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