in which

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in which

Post by azz » Wed Sep 18, 2019 2:32 am

a. There has been a terrible accident in which we don't know how many people were hurt.
b. There has been a terrible accident where we don't know how many people were hurt.


Are these sentences grammatically correct?

Many thanks.
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Re: in which

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:07 pm

No.
I would probably say something along the lines of, "There has been a terrible accident. We don't know how many people were hurt".
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Re: in which

Post by Phil White » Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:16 pm

It strikes me that the problem with the sentences is logical and not grammatical.

A relative clause qualifies a noun phrase by adding further information about the noun phrase. In your example, the information is in fact non-information, and the negative formulation adds to the overwhelming sense of pointlessness in respect of the relative clause.

They simply sound wrong. That's not how we use relative clauses, even if they are grammatically correct. Bob's suggestion rings true.

You could probably just get away with "there has been a terrible accident in which an unknown number of people have been hurt," but even that sounds very strange.

The other problem is at least partially grammatical. In a relative clause of this type (the relative pronoun is not the subject of the relative clause), we expect the subject of the clause to follow the relative pronoun. Your first sentence reads as if "we-don't-know-how-many people" is a noun phrase in which "we don't know how many" qualifies "people". This would be a mighty strange construction in English, but not unheard of (cf "... in which God only knows how many people were hurt" - which would be perfectly okay).
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Re: in which

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:39 pm

Phil White wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:16 pm
You could probably just get away with "there has been a terrible accident in which an unknown number of people have been hurt," but even that sounds very strange.
Yes. If the number of casualties is unknown, there is no clear basis for describing it as "a terrible accident".
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Re: in which

Post by Phil White » Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:49 pm

Indeed. That may well be the reason we feel uncomfortable about it. "It was a terrible accident, but nobody was hurt" would be very odd, but again, not entirely unthinkable, particularly if you qualify the second part: "it was a terrible accident, but, miraculously, nobody was hurt".
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