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Spring Flower Gifts trains every manager in its retail stores in _______ they should deal with customer service.

a. which

b. who

c. what

d. how

The answer is d. I'd like to know why a. can't be correct.

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    None of the other options makes sense. The managers are being trained in how (in what way) to serve their customers. (It's an odd sentence anyway; a native speaker would say simply trains [them] in customer service.) Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 8:02
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    @KateBunting But Spring Flower Gifts trains every manager in its retail stores in which they should deal with customer service does make sense, because in which they should deal with customer service can be a relative clause having retail stores as its antecedent, doesn't it?
    – listeneva
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 12:16
  • It's a cumbersome and unlikely sentence. I take the sentence to refer to training in a skill rather than in a place. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:13

1 Answer 1

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Let's ignore the fact that the example sentence has problems; let's pretend it ends with "___ they should deal with customers."

Yes, (d) is the most likely answer simply because the meaning it creates makes the most sense. (a) could also be used in this sentence, but it creates a less likely meaning.

  • Spring Flower Gifts trains every manager in its retail stores in how they should deal with customers: Here, the word "in" means "about," or "on the topic of." This means they "train them [about] how" they should deal with customers. They give them training "in" [the topic of] how to deal with them.
  • Spring Flower Gifts trains every manager in its retail stores in which they should deal with customer service: Here, the word "in" forms a phrase along with "which," and suddenly the phrase in which modifies stores, completely changing the meaning. This means: They give training to some of their managers. Which managers? Those in certain stores. Which stores? Those stores in which the managers "should deal with customers." While this is grammatically possible, the meaning is less likely: Are there stores in which the managers "should not" deal with customers? Dealing with customers is often part of a store manager's job, and even if they don't have to, it's hard to imagine a company saying they shouldn't.
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  • If the answer is (a), why not treat the prepositional phrase in its retail stores...customer service as a temporal adjunct modifying the verb trains? That way, the relative clause in which...customer service would provide necessary information about the place where they are trained.
    – listeneva
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 16:31
  • @listeneva Good point, but for that meaning a comma is needed: "SPG trains every manager in its retail stores, in which they should deal with customer service." Without the comma, the clause starting with "in which" is restrictive; without it it's non-restrictive. (And the meaning would still be less likely; it would combine some unrelated concepts in one sentence.) Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 16:54
  • I don't understand why the relative clause cannot be restrictive in that reading. For example, every manager should be trained in their own retail store, not in any retail store.
    – listeneva
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 22:58
  • @listeneva If you made "stores" into a singular that would be an option, sure. Or if "stores" stays plural, and "its" changes to "their," then perhaps we're describing managers who work in multiple stores but only train in one. But these meanings get more and more bizarre, and the more complicated they get, the more there are better phrasings to explain them. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 23:26

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