there is a dirty mark on the rug which must be removed

  • AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    The "which" in the wrong sentence points to "the rug", not "the dirty mark", so it says that it's the rug that has to be removed.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    This is a good example of a sentence which no English speaker would misunderstand. The supposedly normal situation is that the relative pronoun refers to the nearest preceding noun. The person who wrote the linked post calls the sentence incorrect because "which" refers to "rug" - ''There is a dirty mark on the rug which must be removed''. It doesn't. Anybody in his or her right mind knows instantly that it is the dirty mark that must be removed. The phrase "on the rug" is interpreted as a reduced relative clause and the sentence is recognised as ''There is a dirty mark, on the rug, which must be removed''. The "correct" sentence would never pass my lips.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Anybody in his or her right mind knows instantly that it is the dirty mark that must be removed.
    I'm afraid, Andy, that I regard this as an example of a Single Imagined Context (SIC).

    If you wanted one rug removing and the other keeping, you could clearly use this sentence - There is a dirty mark on the rug which must be removed - to distinguish between the two.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm afraid, Andy, that I regard this as an example of a Single Imagined Context (SIC).
    No, because the context is provided by the "correct" answer. In your Other Imagined Context (OIC) the sentence "On the rug, there is a dirty mark which must be removed" would be wrong.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The yet-unknowing world is left in doubt as to whether you see the ambiguity of There is a dirty mark on the rug which must be removed, Andy.

    Your post #3 left me wondering how these things came about.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There's no ambiguity, TT. The context makes it abundantly clear.
    The OP's context: ''On the rug, there is a dirty mark which must be removed''
    Your alternative context: "If you wanted one rug removing and the other keeping, you could clearly use this sentence" "to distinguish between the two".

    OP's context - there's only one rug.
    Your alternative context - there's two rugs.

    I find the claims of ambiguity that come up so often in these threads to be tedious. The ambiguity normally exists only in the minds of people writing context-free sentences in books and blogs.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The ambiguity in the rug which/that must be removed is academic.
    Why does the original sentence need to be "corrected" to "make it clear" that which refers to the rug?

    I agree with Andygc.

    As Thomas says, the difference would be heard in the intonation.
     
    Last edited:

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's both - There is a dirty mark that is on the rug which must be removed (not that I'd ever say that) reduces to the prepositional phrase on the rug.
     
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