I read a sentence from a text. I somehow can understand the sentence, but I found that I couldn't analyse the structure of it:-(

Included among such Lipschitz paths are all piecewise smooth paths, for which the generalized definitions of path integrals (with respect to Lipschitz paths) are thus seen to reduce to the definitions given earlier (with respect to piecewise smooth paths)

In this sentence, the words in parenthesis are added by myself, i.e., the original sentence doesn't contains those words. I added them to provide context for you. 'Lipschitz path' and 'piecewise smooth path' are two concepts in math, on both of which we can define 'path integrals'. I think the real meanings of those math concepts don't matter. You can see it this way that 'Lipschitz paths' is a larger class of 'paths' which contains 'piecewise smooth paths'. I also think I can understand the sentence right. It means,

Lipschitz paths included all piecewise smooth paths (in other words, piecewise smooth paths are a special class of Lipschitz paths), so the definition of path integrals on Lipschitz paths can be seen to reduce to the definition of path integrals on piecewise smooth paths given earlier.

After transformation, I found that I couldn't find a subject or object that 'for which' refers to in the latter sentence. But 'for which' must refer to something so that we can transform the second part of the latter sentence to a clause in the first sentence, right?

In my opinion, 'for which' is a bit redundant, or it just means 'because of which'?

  • piecewise smooth paths, I guess.
    – user33000
    May 27, 2016 at 13:37
  • IMNSHO (and I'm on shaky ground here because I know nothing about Lipschitz paths), the sentence is strange and probably doesn't convey the intended meaning. A minimal fix, which could make the sentence work, is All piecewise smooth paths are included among such Lipschitz paths, for which the generalized definitions of path integrals (with respect to Lipschitz paths) are thus seen to reduce to the definitions given earlier (with respect to piecewise smooth paths). (It's still not the best possible way to deliver the message, IMHO, though; but at least it should say what it was meant to say.) May 27, 2016 at 14:56
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    Suggested reading: pied-piping. May 27, 2016 at 14:59
  • @DamkerngT. Sorry that I don't understand why you bother to use an inverted sentence to replace the first part of my transform. I think the two sentences don't make a difference ...
    – Hua
    May 27, 2016 at 15:16
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    Don't worry. If you can't understand it, it's my fault (because I can't find or make a better example). In my last attempt, I'd like to give you a link to this page, and another pair of alternatives as a puzzle(!), between We take increased devotion to that cause from these honored dead for which they gave the last full measure of devotion and From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. Hope it might be thought-provoking a bit. :-) May 27, 2016 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


Sina is correct that "for which" refers to "all piecewise smooth paths", answering your first question. Specifically, "which" refers to the piecewise smooth paths.

For your second question, "for which" does not mean "because of which". The latter part of the sentence is a description (the generalized definitions... are thus seen to...), and "for which" connects that description to the noun that is described (all piecewise smooth paths, as above). I wouldn't say that "for which" is redundant here because without it the rest sentence as written would be difficult to interpret. But the sentence can be re-written, as in your transformation, in ways that do not require the "for which" phrase at all to connect sentence elements together.

  • Thanks for this answer, I can understand that if omitting the 'for which', this sentence is somehow incomplete, or wrong. But if, as you said, it is difficult to interpret it when omitting it, I think there must be a grammatical reason for this usage. But I can't find a grammatical justification for this attributive clause (It is an attributive clause, right?)
    – Hua
    May 27, 2016 at 14:35
  • Or I ask it this way, is it grammatically right to use 'which' to connect a noun in main clause to an attributive clause even if 'which' does not refer or replace anything in the attributive clause?
    – Hua
    May 27, 2016 at 14:42
  • @Hua An attributive clause must have a subject and verb of its own. In this case we are using "which" as a pronoun, satisfying the requirement for a subject. The antecedent (all piecewise smooth paths) could be used instead of the pronoun, but that would be odd in a single sentence which already explicitly states the antecedent. So "which" is referring to the antecedent (from the previous clause) and, in the attributive clause, serves as the subject (so it does not need to replace or refer to anything there). "Which" is the correct pronoun to use in this case, signifying "one out of a group".
    – Upper_Case
    May 27, 2016 at 15:59

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