“ ‘Landry’s funeral was covered as lavishly as any celebrity wedding in the tawdry magazines who feed on the famous, and whose publishers will surely mourn her demise longer than most. We were permitted glimpses of various celebrities in tears, but her family were given the tiniest picture of all; they were a surprisingly unphotogenic lot, you see.

   “ ‘Yet the account of one mourner genuinely touched me. In response to the inquiry of a man who she may not have realized was a reporter, she revealed that she had met Landry at a treatment facility, and that they had become friends.
(The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith)

In the boldface relative clause, there’s a gap after ‘realized.’ However, the correspondent relative word is not seen. I guess this would be ‘whom’ and omitted; and ‘who, which is seen in the clause, is shifted/raised from before ‘was.’ So there seems to be two relative clauses that modify the same antecedent, a man. Is this what the clause denotes?
(Finishing my typing, this thought comes into my mind that ‘who she may not have realized was a reporter’ is not a relative clause but just a noun modifier. And ‘who was a reporter’ is a post-posed relative (CGEL,p.1066); ‘who’ is raised.)

  • I don't know how CGEL would analyze this kind of usage. However, I find that it's common enough; for example, "We went to the lake nearby which was a nice place." and "We went to the lake nearby which I think was a nice place." Aug 20, 2014 at 3:54
  • @DamkerngT. I think there is no way to replace "who" with "whom". Am I right? Aug 20, 2014 at 4:05
  • @Man_From_India I think it's possible. What I hadn't realized until you asked me is both of the two alternatives seem to read fine for me, though I'd parse them differently, and yet they will have roughly the same meaning. Aug 20, 2014 at 4:17
  • @DamkerngT. Can you reason why "whom" is also possible? Aug 20, 2014 at 4:24
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    @Man_From_India You should post that as your own independent question, as it's a good one. Aug 20, 2014 at 4:25

2 Answers 2


So there seems to be two relative clauses that modify the same antecedent, a man. Is this what the clause denotes?

There is only one relative clause. The element that was relativized was the subject of an embedded content clause. That is:

  • In response to the inquiry of a man(i) [ who(i) she may not have realized [ __(i) was a reporter] ], . . .

Everything that is in italics is the relative clause ("who she . . . a reporter"). Embedded within the relative clause is a content clause ("__(i) was a reporter") whose subject was relativized and moved into prenucleus position of the relative clause (it is the relative pronoun "who" in your example). That is, notice that the gap in the embedded content clause is functioning as the content clause's subject: "he was a reporter."

A recent related post on the topic of relativizing the subject of an embedded content clause: https://ell.stackexchange.com/a/31827/8758

There's related info in CGEL: pages 466-7 ("(e) Subject of an embedded content clause"), pages 1046-7 ("3.4 Relativisation of an element within an embedded clause"), pages 1079-94 (which has more good stuff).

NOTE: CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

  • 2
    Thank you for showing me the related contents in CGEL. To read them was very intriguing as if I’d met a so well-made drama that I were lost in.
    – Listenever
    Aug 21, 2014 at 2:38
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    + 1 for the detailed further references (as well as a good read ...) Aug 21, 2014 at 19:51

The canonical version of the (single) relative clause is

She did not realize (that) he was a reporter.

As you see, he is properly in the nominative case as the subject of was. Consequently, who is its proper realization when the clause is recast as a relative.

If the canonical version had an infinitive complement, he would be 'raised' to him:

She did not know him to be a reporter.

In that case the relative would be realised with whom

... whom she did not know to be a reporter.

  • +1 But you mean might be, or could be realised with whom (as opposed to who), right? Aug 21, 2014 at 19:54
  • @Araucaria In formal registers it must be realized with whom. In colloquial registers who may freely replace whom (but the reverse is not true). Aug 21, 2014 at 20:01
  • I really don't think that's true - although I'm willing to be disproved. Do you know of an academic journal, for instance, where who is barred from being an object, either in practice or in their style guide? Like I say, I am willing to be disproved ... [if a person can be disproved, that is :) ] Aug 21, 2014 at 20:03
  • @Araucaria I don't have any style guides, and my wife has just taken her MLA Style Manual off to grad school. But the Purdue OWL is pretty much the online standard for academic English these days; note its distinction between 'Grammatically Correct' and 'Conversational Use'. Aug 21, 2014 at 20:31
  • But it doesn't say 'whom' must be used in formal writing. It just says: 2) In American English, the word "whom" is not used very often. "Whom" is more formal than "who" and is very often omitted while speaking: Sorry about the bold. Was difficult with just italics :) Aug 21, 2014 at 23:59

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