which is a dangerous animal

Discussion in 'English Only' started by azz, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. azz Senior Member

    Can one say:

    a. That is a lion, which is a dangerous animal.

    The speaker means to say that that is a lion and the lion is a dangerous animal. So there is a general statement following a particular one. I think the sentence is fine as it is, but then again, we can have:

    b. That is a lion, which is in a cage.

    Here the clause defines a certain lion. In the first case, the clause (claws?!!) tells us something about all lions.

    Many thanks.
  2. gofigure New Member

    To my mind, both are correct. According to Raymond Murhy's "English Grammar in Use" (units about relative clauses) they are 'extra information' clauses.
  3. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Both sentences are grammatically acceptable.
  4. azz Senior Member

    Thank you both.

    But what about these:

    c. That is a lion, which can tear you apart.
    d. That is a lion, which is capable of killing people.
    e. That is a lion, which eats meat.

    They are correct, but unlike (a) in these sentences we are talking about that one particular lion and not about all lions, are we not?
    These sentences do not mean:

    But what about these:

    c2. That is a lion, and lions can tear you apart.
    d2. That is a lion, and lions are capable of killing people.
    e2. That is a lion, and lions eat meat.

    The second parts of (c2), (d2) and (e2) make generic statements, but the relative clauses in their counterparts do not.

    Many thanks.

    Many thanks.
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    There is something slightly odd about the sentences using 'which', I agree, and I think we might actually use a different phrasing, like your (c2) to (e2). But it is quite natural to make statements that aren't entirely logical. If I'm in a zoo, I might say:

    (a) That's a kakapo, and it lives in New Zealand.
    (b) That's a kakapo, and they live in New Zealand.

    If I thought about it, (b) makes more sense than (a) - it doesn't live in New Zealand, it lives in the zoo in London - but (a) is still quite a normal sort of thing to say, without thinking. There is no violation of grammar in your sentences, is what I mean.
  6. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    But what about these:

    No; these three sentences are talking about all lions; the text following the comma is true of all lions.

    Sentence (e), for example, says that lions eat meat. If we want to say that something is true of a particular lion but not necessarily of all lions, we say: That is a lion that eats meat. The last three words constitute what is called a restrictive clause; the meaning is restricted (limited) to this particular lion. In your sentence (e), the comma and "which" are signals of a nonrestrictive clause; it tells you what the animal is called (a lion) and adds information about such animals, not restricted to the particular lion you're looking at.

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