who we found out

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who we found out

Post by azz » Tue Aug 13, 2019 10:05 am

a. Jack was the first detective we found out Tim had bribed.
b. Jack was the first detective who we found out Tim had bribed.
c. Jack was the first detective whom we fount out Tim had bribed.
d. Jack was the first detective about whom we found out Tim had bribed him.


Which of the above sentences are grammatically correct?

Many thanks
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Re: who we found out

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:51 pm

This is a particularly ugly example of a double relative clause.

Sentence 1 sounds OK.

In sentence 4, the "him" at the end is entirely lost.

Sentences 2 and 3 really illustrate why this is a particularly ugly specimen. The "whom" is simply wrong. "Jack" is not the object of "found out". The object, or complement, of "found out" is the clause "that Jack was bribing Tim". So the relative pronoun is simply inappropriate.

The avoidance of the relative pronouns in sentence 1 allows us to get away with the construction. A fully "grammatical" construction in a single sentence would have to look something like: "Jack was the first detective whom we discovered to have been bribed by Tim." Note the change of "found out" to "discovered" in order to allow the correct use of the relative pronoun.

The use of "discovered" also makes the other alternatives more palatable:
a. Jack was the first detective we discovered Tim had bribed.
b. Jack was the first detective who we discovered Tim had bribed.
c. Jack was the first detective whom we discovered Tim had bribed.

As far as "who/whom" is concerned, I believe that that battle has long been lost. The use of "who" as an objective relative pronoun in spoken English is nowadays pretty well ubiquitous, and even in relatively formal written English, "whom" is rarely seen.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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