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I have another question regarding how to use the word "who" with possessive nouns.

This is Jane's brother, who was in your class back in 2005.

I want to refer this "who" to Jane, not the brother, but how can I imply this clearly without NOT using "Jane's brother"? Say, if I don't want to change the sentence around by maybe saying "this is the brother of Jane, who was in you class"? Is it impossible to do?

Thank you in advance!

2 Answers 2

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It is impossible without changing the sentence beyond just replacing the word who with another word. Because changing the sentence is a perfectly fine solution, I think English never needed a special kind of word or construction for this specific situation. I think this is the easiest solution:

This is Jane's brother. She was in your class back in 2005.

Replace she with a name if both people are of the same sex.

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You could also say "This is the brother of Jane, who was in your class back in 2005." but it could still be understood as saying that Jane's brother was in the same class. If the other person remembers Jane, and the fact she was in the same class, the sentence could be understood; if that person doesn't remember Jane, the sentence could probably not be understood.

You need to rephrase the sentence. An alternative to what Cerberus suggests is the following one. (I prefer his suggestion because it is shorter.)

This is the brother of that Jane who was in your class back in 2005.

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  • I might say "this is the brother of the Jane that..."
    – Riolku
    Aug 10, 2021 at 18:23
  • I am used to avoid the definite article before a person name. (It's an habit I have from my first language.)
    – apaderno
    Aug 10, 2021 at 19:24
  • I find "the" to be very neutral, whereas "that" feels a bit aggressive, maybe due to its use in "oh, it's that jane"
    – Riolku
    Aug 10, 2021 at 19:46
  • Oh, it's that Jane. isn't aggressive. That, as pronoun, doesn't have any negative connotation. The negative connotation comes from the sentence it's used in, and from the context.
    – apaderno
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:28
  • And as a word continues to be used in a given context, it becomes associated with that context.
    – Riolku
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:32

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