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Given the text below:

Erik believes that personality development is a series of turning points, which he described in terms of the tension between desirable qualities and dangers.

I am confused about the usage of the verb "describe". In other words, which of the following sentences is correct?

  1. which he described it in terms of ...

  2. which he described in terms of ...

6

The first sentence of your two examples is incorrect.

The verb describe is definitely a transitive verb and in your sentence it has a direct object: which.

Erik believes that personality development is a series of turning points, which he described in terms of the tension between desirable qualities and dangers.

In your sentence, which is a relative pronoun linking its subclause to the main clause and referring tot he phrase that personality development is a series of turning points. Within the subclause, it acts as a direct object. This is also the reason you cannot place an it in the subclause, because you already have a direct object. If you split the sentences into two main clauses and leave out the which, you can use it.

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2

The antecedent of "which" is the noun "development". The noun could be repeated:

Erik believes that personality development is a series of turning points, which development he described in terms of the tension between desirable qualities and dangers.

In fact, in older texts, especially legal texts, you will see the noun repeated, and sometimes the word "said" instead of "which":

Licensee shall pay Licensor a fee of $10,000, said fee to be tendered in four equal quarterly installments.

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1

Describe is a transitive verb. In your sentence, which is the object of the verb, so

  1. which he described in terms of ...

is correct.

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