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OK, this is the way in which some things are unities - by being continuous or a whole. Other things, however, get to be unities by dint of the fact that the account of them is a single account. This latter group comprises those things a thought about which is a single thought, and such things are those a thought about which is an indivisible thought. And a thought is an indivisible thought if it is a thought about a formally or numerically indivisible object. (Aristotle, The Metaphysics, transl. by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Penguin Books, 1998)

I wonder about grammaticality. In what way are "those things a thought" and "those a thought" grammatically correct? I thought at first they were appositions, but I think now there is omission of commas between these and those and "a thought"s are related with clauses themselves; I don't know why commas are omitted, though. (They are located in line 4 and 5 repectively.)

  • 1
    Which translation is this? I'm pretty sure that Aristotle didn't write like that, with "OK..."
    – James K
    Mar 16, 2023 at 7:41
  • @James K It's published by penguin books.
    – user476510
    Mar 16, 2023 at 7:48
  • @James K books.google.co.kr/…
    – user476510
    Mar 16, 2023 at 7:48
  • @JamesK - 1998 translation by Hugh Lawson-Tancred. It does seem a bit chatty in places. Mar 16, 2023 at 7:59
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    @MichaelHarvey It seems that the writer wrote "a thought (that) such things are those" into a separated version (such things are those a thought...). But the point is whether it's generally accepted as grammatical.
    – user476510
    Mar 16, 2023 at 8:29

1 Answer 1


This sentence is unusual because it (twice) uses a relative clause in which the relativizer ("which") is the object of a preposition ("about") and that prepositional phrase modifies the clause's subject ("a thought"). It sounds fairly convoluted because the relativizer is buried so deep and appears several words after the start of the relative clause. Here is the sentence with the relative clauses in brackets:

This latter group comprises those things [a thought about which is a single thought], and such things are those [a thought about which is an indivisible thought].

This is a compound sentence whose main clauses are separated by ", and". The subject of the second main clause ("such things") refers to the direct object of the first clause ("those things"). Thus, "this latter group" comprises only one set of things. The first relative clause says that a thought about those things is a single thought. The second relative clause says that a thought about those things is an indivisible thought.

Why are there no commas (except for the one that separates main clauses)? Both relative clauses are restrictive (essential, defining, etc.), so they should not be set off by punctuation. To see that, try reading the sentence without the relative clauses. Each main clause contains the phrase "those things", which can not stand on its own since it seems to indicate specific things (by using the adjective "those") even though those things are not specified. The relative clauses specify them.

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