I have a doubt concerning the usage of "whose". After the noun which the relative pronoun refers to is mentioned, I believe it is possible to use the personal pronoun "it", in reference to the same noun; at any rate I think I have seen sentences (in supposedly reliable sources) where this kind of structure happens.

However, pondering on the question, I´m now not so sure - using a personal pronoun would seem to be wrong; it sounds like a repetitive reference to the noun being qualified. Also, when the noun is in the plural, would it be possible to use "they"? It does sound rather strange to me!

For instance, which of these sentences would be considered correct, according to most grammarians?


1- The person whose job is to check all accounts should be able to help us


2- The person whose job it is to check all accounts should be able to help us


3- The people whose job is to check all accounts should be able to help us


4- The people whose job it is to check all accounts should be able to help us


5- The people whose jobs are to check all accounts should be able to help us


6- The people whose jobs they are (!?!) to check all accounts should be able to help us


Sentences 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 sound okay to me; then again, in terms of grammar, something doesn´t seem to be very logical; I can´t quite understand what´s going on!


Thank you very much for any clarification.


Gisele
São Paulo, Brazil

Last edited {1}
Original Post
Sentences 1 and 3 are grammatically correct, but not as natural or idiomatic as 2 and 4. The pattern with it as in 2 and 4 is much more common. But I need to point out that the it in 2 and 4 is a special it.

The it in Sentences 2 and 4 is not a personal pronoun, nor does it refer to the grammatical subject of the main clause; it is the "dummy" it, which has as its subject complement the noun job. We can see this in

7) It's their job to check all accounts (Their job is to check all accounts)

8) It was their duty to inform the family (Their duty was to inform the family)

9) It has always been my parents' dream to have a dozen grandchildren

Sentence 5, with the plural jobs, is not natural because it treats the noun job as if each one of the people had a different job. In this construction, however, the thing possessed is always singular. The noun job here means "task" or "function," not "individual employment."

(Note: the noun job is plural if it refers to the jobs of the individuals, as in

I spoke at length to the people whose jobs are being threatened

In this case, the noun jobs is plural, to indicate the separateness of each job. This is not the case in the sentences above.)

The noun job is used in the singular because the plural subject people shares one job ("task"). Sentence 5 refers to each individual's employment, when it should refer to the shared task of the people.

Sentence 10 illustrates the same principle:

10) My parents are the ones whose dream it is to have a dozen grandchildren

The parents in (10) have always had a single dream, and so on. For this reason, Sentence 5 is not natural. (It could be paraphrased (somewhat awkwardly) as

The people whose jobs involve checking all accounts should be able to help us

This paraphrase is not satisfactory because it calls attention unnecessarily to the individuality of the employees' jobs, when it should focus on the common task of the employees.)

Knowing what we know now, we can see that Sentence 6 is not grammatical. Although Sentences 1 and 3 are acceptable, Sentences 2 and 4 are the most idiomatic and natural of all.

Marilyn Martin
Last edited {1}

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