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Custom officers have raided three shops in an arcade in New York. They seized thousands of pirated discs there.

A band was playing music in the park. The podium of the park had just been renovated.

For the first question, isn't the clause referring to the 'three shops'? Therefore, would it be appropriate if the joined sentence is 'Custom officers have raided three shops where they seized thousands of pirated discs in a an arcade in New York.'? Would the meaning change?

For the second question, if the sentence joined with 'which' is 'A band was playing music in the park, the podium of which had just been renovated.', would there be any difference if there was a comma in front of 'the podium of which'? Could a noun+of+relative pronoun follow the object it is referring to without a comma?

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    It would be more idiomatic to use exactly the same technique to collapse the second example into a single sentence (A band was playing music in the park, where the podium had just been renovated). But all versions are valid, and it's unlikely the present or absence of a comma in the second example would make any difference. (How likely is it that there might be another park where the podium hadn't just been renovated - which the audience / readers might confuse with the actual park because of an "erroneously" included or omitted comma? :) May 29, 2022 at 15:59
  • Would the park be specified as it isn't likely that there would be another park in which a band was playing? Also would the meaning in the first one change if I moved the clause forward? May 29, 2022 at 16:05
  • ...come to that, how likely is it that we'd be told customs officers raided the specific three shops where they (previously?) seized thousands of pirated discs? When there's no real scope for ambiguity, and the relevant clauses are relatively long, the commas/pauses don't necessarily reflect only the "defining / non-defining relative clause" guidelines. May 29, 2022 at 16:06
  • So the clause is just referring to three undefined shops in the arcade in New York? May 29, 2022 at 16:09
  • Yes. But through logic (not syntax), we can be quite sure that they seized the pirated discs when they raided those shops. It wouldn't make much sense to suppose that the particular three shops they raided were the ones identified as being / having been those where pirated discs were seized. May 29, 2022 at 16:22

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The question presents this pair of sentences.

(A1) Customs officers have raided three shops in an arcade in New York.They seized thousands of pirated discs there.

The question suggests combining them into a single sentence:

(A2) Customs officers have raided three shops where they seized thousands of pirated discs in an arcade in New York.

This is grammatically valid, and would be correctly understood by most fluent speakers. It is technically ambiguous, because it could be read as referring to shops where the police had previously seized pirated discs. This is a somewhat contrived reading, unless additional context clearly suggests it, but it is possible. It would be possible to rephrase to avoid this issue, but it isn't really important to do so, in my view. In this use, the clause beginning "where they seized" is restrictive, that is it specifies which shops are under discussion, and so a comma is not usual, indued many works on grammar say that a comma is incorrect in a sentence like this. (A2) also leaves the "in an arcade" as sort of an afterthought, and feels a bit awkward for that reason.

One could instead combine the sentences from A1 in a different way:

(A3) Customs officers have raided three shops in an arcade in New York, where they seized thousands of pirated discs.

In A3 the shops are specified by "in an arcade in New York" making the "where" clause non-restrictive, so a comma is added. This moves the info about the raid to the end, where it is naturally emphasized, and in my view it flows better than A2.

All of A1, A2, and A3 have essentially the same meaning. The "in" clause and the "where" clause both refer to the "three shops".

If one was concerned about the technical ambiguity, one could rewrite this as:

(A4) Customs officers have raided three shops in an arcade in New York; they seized thousands of pirated discs during the raid.

A4 is using a different grammatical structure, but the meaning is still the same.

By the way, in US (and I think UK) English officers who enforce import restrictions and taxes are always "customs officers", never "custom officers". That is because the taxes on imports are known as "customs", always in a plural form. A "custom officer" might be one specially designed, but in practice this term does not occur.


(B1) A band was playing music in the park.The podium of the park had just been renovated.

The question suggests combining the sentences in B1 into:

(B2) A band was playing music in the park, the podium of which had just been renovated.

This is grammatically valid. But somehow it feels awkward to me. The relative clause is non-restrictive here, or at least it could be taken that way, so the comma is proper. If the comma were omitted, that could be taken to indicate that the relative clause was intended to identify which park is meant, but that would be a very odd way to identify a park. But if the clause is to be taken as restrictive, the relative pronoun "that" is strongly prefers to "which" But "of that" is not a usual form, so the sentence would need to be rewritten.

Indeed I find it hard to construct a natural-sounding sentence using 'article' + 'noun' + 'of which' and in which the "which" is the relative pronoun of a relative clause.

I would suggest instead:

(B3) A band was playing music in the park, where the podium had just been renovated.

B3 does not explicitly say that the podium belonged to the park, but the meaning is clear and unchanged, and I think it flows better.

Or one could write:

  • (B4) In the park, the podium of which had just been renovated, a band was playing music.
  • (B5) In the park, where the podium had just been renovated, a band was playing music.
  • (B6) In the park where the podium had just been renovated, a band was playing music.

B6 uses the statement about the podium to specify which park is intended. hat is how it differs from B5. This is placing a fair amount of meaning on a comma, perhaps more than is advisable.

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