Can I write the sentence—The curvature is defined by second derivative, the best estimation of the second derivative basing on three measurements is XXX.— like this:

The curvature is defined by second derivative, the best estimation of which basing on three measurements is XXX.

Or I must put "which" at the beginning of the subsentence if I want it to refer to the construct at previous subsentence? Like this:

The curvature is defined by second derivative, which ...

(In this case how do I rephrase the initial sentence in order to avoid repetitions?)


Yes, you can frame your sentence both ways although the second way is trickier than the first in the present context.

I personally would use 'whose' instead of 'which' and modify the second way as follows :

The curvature is defined by second derivative, whose best estimation is XXX,based on three measurements.

or, if you want the syntax to remain closer to the original :

The curvature is defined by second derivative, whose best estimation,based on three measurements, is XXX.

but then again, who likes so many commas? so..

  • isn't "whose" used with persons only? – klm123 Aug 7 '14 at 7:50
  • Not really. It's just a misconception that "whose" should only be used while referring to people. It can be used for referring to inanimate objects too. "Whose" is the possessive form of both who and which. for your reference : quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/… – Harsh Kanchina Aug 7 '14 at 8:16
  • @klm123 Yes and no. Relative whose can refer to inanimate objects, but interrogative whose cannot. – snailcar Aug 7 '14 at 11:51

Yes, the word 'which' is valid here. I believe it serves as a pronoun in this capacity. However, you probably ought to change 'basing' to 'based'.


The Microsoft Word grammar checker uses that and which interchangeably, except that which is always preceded by a comma, for example:

  • The house fell down.
  • The house that Jack built fell down.
  • The house, which Jack built, fell down.

The use of a computerised grammar checker should be cautioned about for newcomers to English, however it does provide a number of different style checks you can choose as a first pass at valid copy. It does not make any check that what you have written makes any kind of sense.

Cue the pendants to tear this contribution apart.

  • I think that in order for this answer to be helpful, you'd need to expand it to include an explanation of why the meanings of that and which lend themselves particularly to the punctuation in your examples. There is something to the grammar checker's insistence on this, and it's related to the concept of parenthetical versus required information. Mention of the grammar checker could be a useful jumping off point to launch into that discussion. – Jason Melançon Aug 8 '15 at 10:35

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