The context is from Sherlock Holmes book A Study in Scarlet:

"You did not come here in a cab?" asked Sherlock Holmes.
"No, sir."
"Nor Lestrade?"
"No, sir."
"Then let us go and look at the room." With which inconsequent remark he strode on into the house followed by Gregson, whose features expressed his astonishment.

I don't really know what's the usage of "which" here. Is it a determiner just like "the"?

  • With which inconsequent remark = With which inconsequential remark = With that inconsequential remark = With the inconsequential remark previously mentioned... Note that we would very rarely use inconsequent in any context today. Jul 31, 2023 at 15:35
  • It's worth mentioning that this grammar structure is definitely old-fashioned. Nobody today would use a structure like this. They'd say, "And with that inconsequent remark, he strode..."
    – gotube
    Aug 1, 2023 at 1:24

3 Answers 3


It does lead the relative clause "With which (...) house", even though the preceding preposition "with" and the period mark before make it less obvious. An independent clause would require a demonstrative adjective instead: "With this inconsquent remark (...) house".

  • MariaA, if you don't put @KateBunting in the comment, she'll never know you answered her! Jul 31, 2023 at 21:00
  • Oh, I see. It's indeed a relative clause led by the determiner "which" + nuon. I don't know the relative clause can be led by this structure before.
    – shepherd
    Aug 1, 2023 at 3:44

It's a determiner/pronoun referring to the remark just quoted ('inconsequent' because it didn't seem relevant to the previous conversation).

Having made this remark, he strode on into the house...

You would only find a usage like this in narrative.

  • Thanks! And do you think it leads a relative clause?
    – shepherd
    Jul 31, 2023 at 15:22
  • No, I don't think it does. Jul 31, 2023 at 15:51
  • It doesn't even lead to a complete sentence, I think? Isn't the entire "With which... expressed his astonishment." a prepositional phrase, grammatically?
    – BadZen
    Jul 31, 2023 at 17:33
  • @BadZen No, it isn't. Jul 31, 2023 at 20:56
  • 1
    @BadZen Actually I think “with which inconsequent remark” is a prepositional phrase.
    – shepherd
    Jul 31, 2023 at 23:09


He put a dove on the table and said abracadabra!, with which it disappeared.

"with" plays an instrumental role there ("by means of") and "which" is a relative pronoun that refers back to the action expressed by "[he] said abracadabra". with which is like the conjunction "whereupon" so that "with which it disappeared" is a subordinate clause.

He put a dove on the table and said abracadabra!, with which magic word it disappeared.

"with" there is the same as above, and "which" is an adjective modifying "magic word". Again, "with which magic word it disappeared" is a subordinate clause.

Your example is complicated by the dialogue. The direct speech seems to have an implicit "He said" serving as the verb of the independent clause.

Holmes reached into his coat, took out a dove, and put it on the table. 
"What are you doing with that dove, Holmes? How on earth..."
--"Abracadabra!" With which sudden magic word, it disappeared.
  • Hmmmmm. "Which" is not an adjective; it's a determinative, and it doesn't modify anything. Jul 31, 2023 at 20:58
  • I've decided I don't much care for modern grammatical terms (determinative gave me hives) and I am going to rely on dictionaries and not worry that they're "old school". Jul 31, 2023 at 22:42
  • @Tim Most dictionaries list which as a determinative and a pronoun, and listing it as an adjective makes very little sense. Most of the things you can do with adjectives, you cannot do with which: modify nouns after articles (‘a red book’, ‘*a which book’), function predicatively (‘the book is red’, ‘*the book is which’), be modified by adverbs of degree (‘very red’, ‘*very which’), be compared (‘redder/reddest’, ‘*whicher/*whichest’), etc. There’s a reason the determinative category arose: the ‘old school’ way is plain wrong and doesn’t describe English. Jul 31, 2023 at 23:51
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: Some consider determiners to be a kind of adjective. mit.edu/course/21/21.guide/determin.htm But the really interesting question here, at least to me, is how to understand "with which sudden magic word it disappeared" when there's no preceding independent clause, as is the case with a direct quotation. Aug 1, 2023 at 11:10

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