As a relative pronoun, "which" can be used to refer to a sentence; for example,

She ignored him, which proved to be unwise.

In this case, a comma should be necessary.

In The rite of spring written by Arthur Miller, I found such sentences:

... As an example: you simply have to face the moment when you must admit that the lettuce was planted too deep or was not watered enough, cease hoping it will show itself tomorrow, and dig up the row again. But you will feel better for not standing on your dignity. And that's what gardening is all about—character building. Which is why Adam was a gardener. (And all know where it got him, too.)

I am not sure if "which" in the context is a relative pronoun or a demonstrative pronoun.

As a relative pronoun, a comma should be needed before "which" instead of a period.

As a demonstrative pronoun, can "which" be a demonstrative pronoun?

  • 1
    Because there's not much information about the short piece online, I don't know if it's Arthur Miller writing from his own perspective in a very casual way...or if it's supposed to be from a character's perspective who "narrates like that". Either way, this is not a piece of formal writing. Note the sentences start with "But", "And", "Which", "And"... it's a run-on thought that borders on stream-of-consciousness. Though it can be understood, it's going to be a bad example to be using for what would constitute "correct" writing style. Mar 9, 2016 at 14:41
  • Thanks for your comment. Do you agree the answer given by V. V.: "The clause is used separately here for emphasis."?
    – user31172
    Mar 10, 2016 at 13:54
  • 2
    I don't think it's so much for emphasis, as just fitting in with the style he was going for. I'd file it under "artistic license". Breaking it into these parts gives it the appearance of readability despite being a run-on. "But you will feel..." "And that's what..." "Which is why..." "And all know..." fits into the sort of punctuation rhythm and self-interruption of the narrative being created. Mar 10, 2016 at 14:01
  • I was convinced. Just to expect a more convincing answer. Thank you, HostileFork.
    – user31172
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:32
  • 1
    An old answer of mine should be helpful. (It was about fragments.) Mar 10, 2016 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


Grammatically that which-clause not an independent clause. It is an afterthought relating to the idea expressed in the previous statement. It is punctuated as though it were an independent clause, granted, but punctuation is merely a convention, and the conventions are often flouted in literary works. There could have been an em-dash there instead of a full-stop. The point of the pointing is this: in the rhythms of speech, there would have been quite a large pause there. That's how afterthoughts work.


According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, which can be a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun. There is no mention of a demonstrative pronoun.

Our father, **which** art in heaven... (relative)
**Which** one do you want? (interrogative)
  • Yes. I found no dictionary mentioning "which" can act as a demonstrative pronoun. But, neither relative pronoun or interrogative pronoun can explain the function of "which" in the context.
    – user31172
    Mar 9, 2016 at 7:51
  • a relative pronoun represents one clause in another, less important one, and links the two clauses together. "She says that she knows him, which I doubt." is another way of saying "She says that she knows him: I doubt it". Both "it" and "which" are pronouns that represent the statement "she says that she knows him".
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 9, 2016 at 8:02
  • Do you mean that "which" in the context is a relative pronoun?
    – user31172
    Mar 9, 2016 at 8:54
  • @user31172: Exactly.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 9, 2016 at 11:50
  • I am not sure. But since relative pronoun can only be used to mark relative clause, the usage of “which” here is more or less close to demonstratrive pronoun.
    – user31172
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:00

Which is here a relative pronoun. It can be used with other wh-words.

She had become separated from her mother in the shop,which was why she was crying.

She left her address, which was how we contacted her.

The clause is used separately here for emphasis.

  • That is to say, when "which" is used as a relative pronoun and with a period before it instead of a comma, the author intended to emphasize the clause "why Adam was..." ?
    – user31172
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:23
  • Yes, to attract your attention. He is talking to you, his reader.
    – V.V.
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:59
  • Is this a formal or valid usage of "which", or just a usage under Artistic license, as suggested by HostileFork?
    – user31172
    Mar 10, 2016 at 15:12
  • 1
    It's fiction and the author uses a "conversational " style. You can't call it formal, I believe.
    – V.V.
    Mar 10, 2016 at 15:20
  • And It is called a literary device.
    – V.V.
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:18

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