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Consider the following sentence:

After introducing some anchors by the user, the range of nodes which are affected by a single anchor or a group of anchors should be specified.

Due to the "which", I used "the" before the "range", but should I use "the" before the "nodes" too?

I mean:

...the range of the nodes which are affected by a single anchor or a group of anchors should be specified.

Does "which" has any effect on "nodes", I mean in general for such phrases?

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  • You can use the there for the reason you think; however,I believe that that the is usually dropped, along with the which are, in this kind of writing. I'd read your sentence fine with either a range or the range. (FWIW, I prefer a range.) The more problematic part is your participle After introducing. A quick fix: After some(the?) anchors are introduced by the users, ..., or a bit riskier, With some(the?) anchors (having been) introduced by the users, ... – Damkerng T. Jun 24 '15 at 8:43
  • Thank you, you are right! I have some similar sentences, is it correct? Then, by selecting the two anchors from the list of anchors and selecting the “Common Ancestor” option, the context is created. – Ahmad Jun 24 '15 at 11:15
  • @DamkerngT. After some anchors are introduced...., or After some anchors were introduced? – Ahmad Jun 24 '15 at 11:17
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    Then, by selecting the two anchors ... -- I think it's fine. I'd drop the second selecting, and perhaps the the before two anchors. (Keep in mind that I don't have the whole text. It's possible that the two anchors is fine in your context.); After some anchors are/were introduced ... -- both are possible, though in this kind of writing (instructions/demonstrations/manuals) the simple present is more common (do this; do this, this, and this, and then do that). – Damkerng T. Jun 24 '15 at 11:56
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...should I use "the" before "nodes" too?

According to English grammar, not only would a second the be unnecessary, but which are may also be dropped and still be valid.

Does "which" has [sic] any effect on "nodes" ... in general (with respect to requiring a "the)?

In this particular case, the presence of "which" doesn't have any effect on "nodes", and can even be dropped from the sentence entirely.

In general, which and the are generally ambivalent to each others' presence in a sentence since they serve different purposes: the former to add non-restrictive information to a sentence, and the second to denote a specific item or collection as opposed to a more general concept or group of items.

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The oft-misused word "which" is the basic problem in this passage. The rule of "which" vs "that" is simple, per Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style." As a general principle, the word "which" should be used only in a dependent clause. The word "that" should be used everywhere else. So in this passage, change the word "which" to "that" and it immediately fixes the lack of clarity. For example: "After introducing some anchors by the user, the range of nodes THAT are affected by a single anchor or a group of anchors should be specified." The phrase "the range of nodes that are affected" is an independent clause (makes a direct statement), even though it appears within a larger prepositional phrase/dependent clause (all prepositional phrases are dependent clauses) as introduced by the word "After..." Yes this sounds mighty confusing, but the trick is to look at the individual, smaller phrases that ultimately compose a larger, complex sentence.

The memory trick for this rule is called "The Comma Witch." If the word "which" appears it only should be in a dependent clause and therefore should be preceded by a comma, which is the punctuation mark that primarily defines a dependent clause. No comma before the "which" generally means that the phrase is an independent clause (also called a direct clause) and the word "which" should be changed to "that." [CLARITY NOTE FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS: Because memory tricks (mnemonics) often rely on cultural or idiomatic concepts, I am adding here a literal explanation of the Comma Witch for those who are new to the English language and might not understand why this simplifies the way to remember a grammar rule. The word "witch" is a sound-alike pun for the word "which." Because the image of a witch is easy to remember, an individual then can use imagination to visualize a Comma Witch. It might be a witch riding on a comma-shaped broom, or wearing a comma-shaped hat, or with a comma appearing as a nose or as a facial wart... the possibilities are endless and the point is to invent something that works for you in your own mind. The ultimate goal is that picturing this "Comma Witch" permanently links the word "which" to a comma/dependent clause and reminds an editor to check for proper punctuation and word usage. END OF CLARITY NOTE FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS].

Regarding the answer to this question, the only way to properly use "which" in the provided sentence only makes it sound confusing/awkward: "After introducing some anchors by the user, the range of nodes, WHICH are affected by a single anchor or group of anchors, should be specified." Applying the "comma which" rule simplifies this statement (changes "which" to "that"), so that it a) clearly and concisely states its purpose, and b) is MUCH easier to read and understand.

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