I have the following sentence. (I asked several questions regarding it)

Otherwise, we should find another anchor within the page which has a common ancestor with the anchor under consideration which encloses the target section.

The bold text should be a relative clause for the "common ancestor", but it may be related to the "anchor under consideration".

How should I, in general, make such sentences with several relative clauses. where in the sentence each should be placed?

  • 1
    In general, rewrite (or at least repoint) so you're not trying to cram more into a sentence or clause than it can comfortably hold. For instance: "Otherwise, we should find another anchor within the page. The anchor must have an ancestor in common with the anchor under consideration, and the common ancestor must enclose the target section." (If I had any idea what you're talking about I could probably do better than that, but at least the ambiguous references have been disambiguated.) Jun 20, 2015 at 20:10
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    By and large, sentences work just like code: it may be possible to express an entire subroutine in a single expression, but the expression will be very difficult to document, and hell for the next guy to understand. Jun 20, 2015 at 20:14
  • @StoneyB Thank you very much. However for the future need, the question remains for such distant relative clauses. but I will follow your advice.
    – Ahmad
    Jun 21, 2015 at 4:49
  • There are repeated disruptions by prepositional phrases which introduce new nouns ("within the page" ... "with the anchor under consideration") and these nouns make the antecedents of which unclear. It is not simply a matter of intervening distance.
    – TimR
    Jun 21, 2015 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


I concur with StoneyB's advice to break the sentence up into smaller units, and to repeat nouns, thereby avoiding all of the ambiguous relativizers.

But if you absolutely want to do this in a single sentence, you can reposition phrases, thereby keeping the noun and the relativizer adjacent:

Otherwise, we must find within the page another anchor which shares an ancestor with the anchor that encloses the target section.

  • Thank you, before this, I myself wrote this sentence: "Otherwise, if the anchor has an ancestor enclosing the target section, we should find another anchor which has the same ancestor. (or with the same ancestor) "
    – Ahmad
    Jun 21, 2015 at 19:01

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