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They've asked him to mend the fuse, which he won't even try.

From The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which deems it as ungrammatical, without further explanation. I think that "which" could refer to "to mend the fuse": which he won't even try = he won't even try to mend the fuse.

Do I get it wrong?Could you please tell me how to revise the sentence?

Context (summarized from the book):

  1. They’ve asked me to mend the fuse, but I can’t.
  2. They’ve asked him to mend the fuse, but he won’t even try.

The relative counterpart for (1):

1a. They've asked me to mend the fuse, which I can't.

But there is no comparative counterpart for (2).

2a. *They’ve asked him to mend the fuse, which he won’t even try.

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  • What page number(s) in CGEL?
    – BillJ
    Mar 23, 2022 at 18:20
  • @Billj It's on 1528.
    – ForOU
    Mar 24, 2022 at 5:10
  • The rule is that 'gap' can represent a complement of an auxiliary verb, as in 1a. but not of a lexical verb, as in 2a. So we can have "They've asked me to mend the fuse, which I can't __", but not *"They’ve asked him to mend the fuse, which he won’t even try __".
    – BillJ
    Mar 24, 2022 at 10:36
  • yes, I can follow those examples in CGEL. But I'm just wondering if native speakers really find 2a unacceptable.
    – ForOU
    Mar 24, 2022 at 11:02
  • Probably not. It's quite an obscure 'rule'.
    – BillJ
    Mar 24, 2022 at 11:08

2 Answers 2

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The meaning of the sentence is clear, and it might even be used in casual speech. I think the problem is that, strictly speaking, which appears to refer to the fuse rather than the action of mending it (he won't try the fuse). It would be more correct to say:

They've asked him to mend the fuse, which he won't even try to do.

Does this make sense in relation to what your grammar book is discussing?

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  • Thanks, I think so. I've edited to provide some context.
    – ForOU
    Mar 23, 2022 at 11:44
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"To mend the fuse" is an infinitive phrase acts as an adverb modifying the finite verb "asked". If this is followed by a relative clause, the relative clause can only modify the noun it follows i.e. the fuse. A relative clause cannot modify an adverb.

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