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On another language forum, I was told that sentences like,

  • This is John's friend who I hate.

  • This is my car which I've had for two years.

etc. are wrong and we should say these instead:

  • This is the friend of John who I hate.

  • This is the car of mine which I've had for two years.

Do you agree with this? Can't the structure in the first pair of examples I gave be used by native English speakers. At least using a pause maybe, like as "This is John's friend, who I hate"? Maybe even without a pause/comma? They don't seem unnatural to me. I would like to receive your knowledge and thought on this.

Context of the sentences: In the first sentence, I am showing someone the picture of somebody I dislike. In the second one, I am showing someone a car in my garage.

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    I would use the first one, with a comma. "This is John's friend, who I hate." In your second version it is ambiguous who you hate: John or his friend. Feb 23 at 8:55
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    In the other example "This is the car of mine which I've had for two years" is unnatural, and also makes it seem as though it is one of several cars you have. Feb 23 at 9:05
  • Isn't the structure in "the car of mine which" grammatically correct though? (I am not talking about its naturalness.) Feb 23 at 18:35
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    Usage of 'which' and 'that' depends on the intended meaning. Please see Which vs. That: How to Choose. Feb 23 at 18:39
  • @WeatherVane Isn't it at least colloquially okay to use "that" and "which" interchangeably? Feb 23 at 18:43

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The first two sound much more natural to me, but it does depends on the emphasis that you want. In both of the first two I would insert commas as follows:

  • This is John's friend, who I hate.
  • This is my car, which I've had for two years.

This then places the emphasis on the first part of the sentence, and everything after the comma refers to it and is additional information that could be discarded. If the additional information is really important (for example, if you had pictures of lots of John's friends and this one particular one was of someone you disliked) then you would not include the comma.

With regards to the second set, "the friend of John" is fine (but ambiguous, you could be saying that you hate either John or John's friend) but in the context of showing a photograph it is less likely to be used by native speakers than "John's friend". However, "This is the car of mine which I've had for two years" is not correct. If you're showing someone a car in your garage and really want to use "car of mine" then maybe you could rearrange the sentence to "I've had this car of mine for two years" but that changes the emphasis to be on the duration of ownership; I'd definitely use "my car" instead.

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    "I've had this car for two years." The 'of mine' possessive is redundant because it's already been stated by 'I've had'. Feb 23 at 9:07
  • Agreed; I was trying to force a sentence that sounded natural incorporating "car of mine".
    – Fiona
    Feb 23 at 9:09
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    WeatherVane's comment on the question is also pertinent here. If you owned several cars, one for two years, another for four years, and a third you owned for ten years, then you might naturally say, This is the car that I've owned for two years, in order to distinguish that car from the others.
    – EllieK
    Feb 23 at 13:12
  • Aren't "my car which" and "John's friend who" grammatically wrong though? I was told they are wrong on forum.wordreference. Feb 23 at 18:36

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