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In the Oxford Practice Grammar book there is a statement like this:

We usually try to put relative clauses immediately after the noun phrases they describe. But we can include a preposition phrase between the noun phrase and the relative clause

'' Pirate is a person on a ship who attacks and steals from other ships. ''

It is obvious that the relative pronoun "who" here refers to the word "person".

But I have also seen such an example on a few websites.

'' There is a state in Germany where they especially want to work ''

"where ( in which ) in this sentence could refer to both "Germany" and "state". How should we interpret such sentences? Can you explain with similar examples ? Thank you.

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    You just have to work it out from context. Look at this and some of these other questions.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 18 at 19:43
  • If you wanted to say they plan on working in Germany, you'd have to reword: ''Germany is where they especially want to work, and they're looking at a state there now." Mar 18 at 20:54
  • Commas can help clarify. "I had the roast beef, which was delicious with a red wine" -> The pairing of food and wine together was delicious. "I had the roast beef, which was delicious, with a red wine." The beef was delicious, and I also had wine. Mar 18 at 21:32

2 Answers 2

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There is a state in Germany where they especially want to work.

It opens with "There is a state" so you can reasonably assume that the state is the focal point of the sentence, and thus that "where they especially want to work" refers to the state.

If you take the interpretation that "where they especially want to work" refers to Germany, the initial statement "There is a state" is otiose.

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There is a state in Germany [where they especially want to work].

Relative clauses modify nouns or nominals.

In this example, I'm inclined to say that the bracketed relative clause modifies the whole of the nominal "state in Germany".

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