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Men whose experience could be called upon at need.

I searched on Oxford Dictionary to find out the usage of need. It showed that to mean in an emergency at need can be used, and then the sentence stated above was used as an example to explain the meaning of at need. Unfortunately I cannot understand the meaning of this sentence. Because due to presence of whose, it seems to me that the above sentence is a dependent clause, of which independent clause was not mentioned.

Source

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    Dictionaries list examples that editors think can explain the meanings most effectively and they could be either a phrase/clause or sentence. In other words, not all examples are in independent clauses. – user24743 Nov 24 '15 at 13:14
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    Noting this NGram showing the massive decline of what I consider to be an effectively archaic usage, I do not think it's worth the average learner bothering with it. Today it would almost always be replaced by as/if required/needed or similar. – FumbleFingers Nov 24 '15 at 16:38
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because I've just discovered that OP's cited example is from oxforddictionaries, where it specifically says this usage is archaic. – FumbleFingers Nov 24 '15 at 16:41
  • But the meaning of "at need" isn't the point of the question. – Senjougahara Hitagi Nov 24 '15 at 16:55
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    I'm really surprised that usage is listed as archaic. Sounds fine to me. In fact, I think I use that. – DCShannon Nov 24 '15 at 16:59
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Your sentence can indeed be a dependent clause, which would be a noun phrase within the independent clause that is missing or not mentioned here. The phrase is used in the Oxford dictionary as an example in which at need can be used.

Here's an example of a complete sentence containing your dependent clause:

They are men whose experience could be called upon at need.

The part in bold is your dependent clause, it functions as a complement to the subject in the main clause (They are X).

However, even though it is not a "complete" sentence, it is not wrong. It could for example serve as a short answer to a question:

  • What are you looking for?
  • Men whose experience could be called upon at need.
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Not every utterance has to be a descriptive sentence, command, question, etc. The above clause is a just noun phrase (a phrase which grammatically works like a noun in other clauses). It would be perfectly fine to say it , for example, as a response to "What kind of men are you looking to hire for the project?".

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