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Reply to "Where"

@GBLSU posted:

. . . what needed more protection were the areas that were not hit. Those were the parts where, if a plane was struck by a bullet, it would never be seen again.

I understand the sentence above to be a clefted version of:

- If a plane was struck by a bullet in those parts (the most critical ones), it would never be seen again (i.e. it would be shot down).

@GBLSU posted:

Wow,  why didn't I think it should be after 'a bullet' ?

I was trying to connect 'the parts ' with the main clause.

I agree with Gustavo that the relative adverb "where" is intended to relate to the "if" adjunct clause within the relative clause rather than to the main clause of the the relative clause; however, that is not standard practice, and the sentence is grammatically questionable on that reading.

At the same time, the context renders the grammatically impeccable reading, according to which "where" would relate to the main clause of the relative clause, illogical. That reading would only make sense if "the parts" referred to geographical territories in which the plane might be seen:

  • The local government in those parts would not allow pilots to fly damaged aircraft. Those were the parts where, if a plane was struck by a bullet, it would never be seen again.

In that example, the relativized element comes from the main clause of the relative clause: "it would never be seen there again." In GBLSU's example, it comes from the adjunct clause ("if a plane was struck there by a bullet"). That is grammatically questionable in modern English, though it does occur—e.g.:

  • "But this administration stood on information that, if you had __ as
    a parent, if you had __ as a worker, knowing you didn't have enough
    money saved up, and now you're standing in a food line, because of
    the ineptitude of an administration that was unwilling to speak the
    truth to the American people; so let's talk about caring about
    the American people." (Kamala Harris, Vice-Presidential Debate, 7 Oct 2020, here: 13:29-13:52)

Interestingly, there is no main clause inside Harris's relative clause there! We should keep in mind that this sentence was spontaneously spoken. She might have written it differently if she had penned her response. For example: "information that you would use __ to make different decisions if you had it."

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator