I think 'which' modifies 'ornamentals'. Ornamentals have a value of $30 billion. It doesn't say Ornamentals with scent have a value of $30 billion. That's why I don't understand why D is the correct answer. Can you explain?


Unfortunately, traditional breeding has often produced cultivars with improved vase life, shipping characteristics, colour and shape while sacrificing desirable perfumes. The loss of scent among ornamentals, which have a worldwide value of more than $30 billion, makes them important targets for the genetic manipulation of flower fragrance.

Multiple Choice Question

The number of $30 billion quoted in the passage is to illustrate the fact that

A. favorable perfumes are made from ornamental flowers.

B. the cultivation of flowers needs to step out of its traditional ways.

C. genetically-modified aromas make for a profitable industry.

D. scent plays a significant role in ornamental industry.

  • Presumably, if the flowers had scent as well as being beautiful and long-lasting, they could be worth even more! Jun 27 at 12:24
  • Thank you @KateBunting, but the question says 'to illustrate the fact', whereas you said presumably. Do you think this is a bad multiple choice question? Jun 27 at 12:47
  • "Which" is not a modifier, and nor is the relative clause in introduces.
    – BillJ
    Jun 27 at 13:06
  • 1
    I think it's a rubbish test. (A) is obviously wrong, since the entrire thrust of the text is effectively saying the opposite. But to my mind the other three statements are all equally true within the context of the text - except I'd say (D) is the least well-supported. The text effectively says that [historically] scent in ornamentals has been [largely] ignored by the industry, but will play a significant role in the future (which it obviously hasn't in the past, or by implication currently - they're working on the future). Jun 27 at 13:08
  • I guess "loss" means "reduction" not "disappearance" which kind of makes sense (the scent still has some value despite there being less of it), but it's not a great sentence especially in a test like this.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 27 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


The loss of scent among ornamentals, [which have a worldwide value of more than $30 billion, makes them important targets for the genetic manipulation of flower fragrance].

You asked about "which": No, relative pronouns are not modifiers; rather, they have a function within the relative clause, typically as subject or object. In your example "which" is the subject of the relative clause and is anaphoric to the noun "ornamentals", called the antecedent. Consider: "ornamentals have a worldwide value of more than $30 billion".

Note also that non-defining relative clauses are not modifiers either, but supplements. They relate to a element (called the 'anchor') in the main clause but they don't actually modify it.

So far as the multiple choice question is concerned, I wouldn't say that any of the options are perfect, though I suppose C. is the closest.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. Do you mind telling me what 'them' in 'makes them important targets' in the last clause refers to? Does it refer to the ornamentals, or the ornamentals that have lost their scent? Jun 27 at 14:30
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    @newbieforever I'd say it refers to "ornamentals".
    – BillJ
    Jun 27 at 14:58

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