I wrote this sentence

In this paper, we aim to present an approach and a system to construct wrappers which are independent of the HTML structure of the page.

I know the difference of "which" and "that" as that is restrictive but which is not. However, in articles as I searched in Google I saw both usage.

Then I am confused if it is a restrictive or non-restrictive here, as I heard to avoid using which for restrictive clauses, and they may need a "the" article before the noun!?

  • 1
    ... But after all that I have to say that the cleanest solution is Whiz-deletion: "wrappers independent of the HTML structure..." Aug 23 '15 at 16:18
  • @StoneyB As I read in that article which could be used for both restrictive and non-restrictive cases, then I would have no concern, but I also have heard to avoid which when it is restrictive, I modify my question to say that
    – Ahmad
    Aug 23 '15 at 16:18
  • It's a long-standing controversy. A handful of 19th century authors asserted the rule, but in the 20th century it was impelled largely by followers of the Fowler brothers' 1906 The King's English -- although they acknowledged that "it is not easy to draw any distinction that is at all consistently supported by usage." Aug 23 '15 at 16:31
  • @StoneyB I like to use the word "descriptive" in contrast with "restrictive", here I intend to add an attribute or description to the wrappers (not limit them). Then I think "which" sounds better
    – Ahmad
    Aug 23 '15 at 16:53
  • 1
    Both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses are descriptive; the question is whether independence is an essential or incidental property of the wrappers. Aug 23 '15 at 17:05
  1. It seems clear from your earlier posts that this relative clause is restrictive: independence is not an incidental or secondary property of the wrappers but an essential property which your system is explicitly designed to confer.

  2. Wrappers here appears to be 'new information'; even if you have previously discussed wrappers of other sorts, the wrappers you introduce here are not a subset of those wrappers but wrappers of a new sort constructed by your system. Unless you have previously introduced these particular wrappers—not just wrappers which are independent, but the independent wrappers constructed by your system—you should not use an article.

  3. As to the use of which with a restrictive clause: the controversy lies between people who feel that which should not be used this way and people who observe that which is and always has been used this way. It's the last gasp of the now largely outdated prescriptivist/descriptivist quarrel. Happily, we've mostly gotten beyond that; today the problem is basically a technical one: what practice is followed by the speech community you are addressing?

  • thank you for your excellent advice, as I searched google both are used "that" about 1 million, and "which" about 300,000
    – Ahmad
    Aug 23 '15 at 17:21

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