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I don't understand why ' where ' was used in the sentence.

Does it means  'by which ' or ' from which ' ?

I don't know  why 'the parts' is related to where. 

Could you explain it, please?

Wald, however, saw that the important thing was that these bullet holes had not destroyed the planes, and 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.

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Hi, GBLSU,

@GBLSU posted:

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).

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator
@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

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.

You are right, David! Excellent explanation. I have to say that, though somewhat strange — I could not see why —, the meaning of the sentence seemed clear to me. I guess this could be a grammatically superior version:

- Those were the parts which, if a plane was struck by a bullet there, would result in the aircraft not being seen again.
or, perhaps better:
- Those were the parts which, if struck by a bullet, would lead to the plane not being seen again / Those were the parts which, if struck by a bullet, would lead to the loss of the plane.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

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.



Thank you for the excellent explanation.  I have another question.

As you mentioned above,  the point is  that in formal sentence, the relative adverb should relate to the main clause , right?

Last edited by GBLSU
@GBLSU posted:

I have another question.

As you mentioned above,  the point is  that in formal sentence, the relative adverb should relate to the main clause , right?

The relativized element needs to come from the main clause of the relative clause, not from the main clause of the sentence. This rule only comes into play when you are dealing with relative clauses that contain adjunct clauses.

@GBLSU posted:

Those were the parts where, if a plane was struck by a bullet, it would never be seen again.

In your example, there are three clauses. First, there is the independent clause. That is the sentence as a whole. Apart from its two embedded clauses, that clause is "Those were the parts."

Next, we have a relative clause modifying "parts": "where, if a plane was struck by a bullet, it would never be seen again." The main clause of that relative clause is "where it would never be seen again."

The relativized element should come from the main clause of the relative clause, but it doesn't. It comes from the "if"-clause embedded in the relative clause, which functions as an adjunct. That's why the relative clause is not so good.

I guess this could be a grammatically superior version:

- Those were the parts which, if a plane was struck by a bullet there, would result in the aircraft not being seen again.
or, perhaps better:
- Those were the parts which, if struck by a bullet, would lead to the plane not being seen again / Those were the parts which, if struck by a bullet, would lead to the loss of the plane.

The revisions Gustavo has proposed are indeed grammatically superior. He has used a relative pronoun ("which") rather than a relative adverb, and the relative pronoun functions as the subject of the main clause of the relative clause ("which . . . would lead . . ." / "which . . . would result . . .").

The "if"-clauses embedded within the relative clause of his revisions ("if a plane was struck by a bullet there" and "if struck by a bullet") do not have a relativized element. Although the version with "if struck by a bullet" has an understood subject and verb, the relative pronoun does not relate to that clause.

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