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I made the following sentence:

  1. It is crucial for us to be attentive to the true needs and wants of our hearts. Only in this way can we attain a life that aligns with our self-expectations.

I want to know if I can combine these two sentences into one by using a relative clause:

  1. It is crucial for us to be attentive to the true needs and wants of our hearts,only in which way can we attain a life that aligns with our self-expectations.
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  • Hi ForOU, I wrote an answer, but in the future please describe the research that you've done on the issue. In this case, knowing that would have helped me to gauge how much detail to include (particularly in paragraphs #1 and #3), whether to provide more background (e.g., about how relative clauses work), etc. In the absence of that information, I tried my best. Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 2:30
  • @MarcInManhattam Thank you. I will keep that in mind.
    – ForOU
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 7:08

2 Answers 2

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Grammatically, your revision is fine. However, there are some issues:

  1. It is correct to place the adverb "only" before what it modifies. However, that position is a bit unusual for an adverb, so the sentence doesn't sound entirely natural.

  2. The relative adjective "which" doesn't seem to have a referent. Which way is meant? We can infer something like "the way in which we are attentive to the true needs . . .", but there is no specific adjectival phrase to which "which" directly corresponds. Some people might consider that an error; even if you considered it acceptable, I believe that it would still make the sentence sound somewhat awkward.

  3. As with #1 above, the sub-aux inversion is grammatically correct but may sound unnatural to some readers.

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  • I'd say the revision is unacceptable since it contains two main clauses separated by just a comma.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 7:01
  • @Billb . The relative word "which" would make the second clause a subordinate one to the first, wouldn't it?
    – ForOU
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 7:14
  • @ForOU No: in your example, "which" is not a relative pronoun, but a determiner that belongs with "way". The expression beginning with "only" is not subordinate but a main clause that could stand alone. Subordinate clauses cannot normally do that.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 7:58
  • @BillJ But there are examples like I said that it might be more efficient to hold the meeting on Saturday morning, which suggestion they all enthusiastically endorsed . where "which" is a relative word and, at the same time, a determiner.
    – ForOU
    Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 1:26
  • @ForOU Please note that BillJ is describing an alternative way of analyzing that clause. There is no English Academy, and there is no single correct way of analyzing English sentences in general. (I believe that the way that he is describing is advocated by CaGEL, if you're interested.) Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 1:58
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  1. It is crucial for us to be attentive to the true needs and wants of our hearts, only in which way can we attain a life that aligns with our self-expectations.

@BillJ is right; which is not a relative pronoun here; it is a determiner introducing way.

To solve the comma splice problem @BillJ highlighted, we add a coordinating conjunction.

I prefer a slight simplification, with pronoun replacing the preposition+determiner+noun structure.

It is crucial for us to be attentive to the true needs and wants of our hearts, [and] only which can we attain a life that aligns with our self-expectations.

which, now as a pronoun, represents the entire preceding clause.

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  • but "which" can be a determiner and , at the same time, a relative word. Someone might call it a relative determiner. eg I said that it might be more efficient to hold the meeting on Saturday morning, which suggestion they all enthusiastically endorsed
    – ForOU
    Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 1:28

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