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Which circumstances can we not split "in which" in

 
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popipo



Joined: 17 May 2012
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:43 am    Post subject: Which circumstances can we not split "in which" in Reply with quote

Hi all.

A non-native speaker asked me about a sentence she'd written:

By watching movies on DVD, people can avoid the circumstance they want to go to the bathroom, but are not willing to miss any part of the movie.

Probably, she believed (incorrectly) that this was somehow parallel to:

"I went back to the park (which) I had left my wallet in"

and had therefore chosen to omit the relative pronoun (or relativizer, or whatever you might fancy calling it).

I suggested that she write:

People can avoid the circumstance in which they want to go to the bathroom, but are not willing to miss any part of the movie.

(Does this sentence make sense? I'm actually getting confused about it myself, but that's not the real point of this post. Or is it?)

She then asked if she could move the preposition to the sentence-final position:

People can avoid the circumstance which they want to go to the bathroom, but are not willing to miss any part of the movie in.

I told her she couldn't, but couldn't explain why. (Embarrassed silence.)

One rather fuzzy (psychological) explanation (that I'm not completely satisfied with myself) might be that the relative clause is just too long, actually being comprised of two clauses. Initially, the reader might interpret "the circumstance" as the object of want, then as that of "to", then expect the split-off preposition to occur after "bathroom", but none of these expectations are realized.

I know there's something I'm overlooking, but I really have have no idea where to find it - in syntax, semantics ...

Could anyone kindly lend a hand?
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