two relative clauses for one noun

Mack&Mack

Senior Member
Korea & Korean
Hello,

This is an excerpt from Bill gates' Harvard commencement speech transcript.

My friends and I had a discussion about what the last sentence meant.

We were shocked. We had just assumed that if millions of children were dying and they could be saved, the world would make it a priority to discover and deliver the medicines to save them. But it did not. For under a dollar, there were interventions that could save lives that just weren’t being delivered.

I interpreted the sentence to mean that

There were interventions that could save lives under a dollar, and the lives were not beling delivered.

However, some of us did it to mean that

There were interventions that could save lives under a dollar, and the interventions weren't being delivered.

Having heard their explanation, I began to wonder if two relative clauses can modify one (same) noun. If so, is the sentence below acceptable?

He came to know the person that he worked as a middleman for who was well off while importing drugs from other countries. (I have just made this up.)

Would anyone help me with this? Thank you in advance. I really appreciate your help.
 
  • Categenesis

    Member
    English
    I'll leave the technical bits to others, but it's the interventions that aren't being delivered, not the lives.

    Your made-up sentence is awkward. I'm guessing you mean "He came to learn that the person whom he had worked for as a middleman was quite well off from the importation of drugs from other countries." Still not great, but understandable. I would probably recast it as two sentences.
     

    Gwan

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I can see where your grammatical confusion comes from in Bill Gates' sentence; however, in this context I don't see what 'lives not being delivered' would mean (how can you deliver lives; how would lives cost under a dollar)? Therefore, Bill Gates must logically mean that there were interventions, costing under a dollar, which could save lives, and were not being delivered for some reason.

    The sentence you made up is clumsy (no offence). There are just too many clauses in there and, although the sense can be teased out, it's not stylistically acceptable.
     

    Mack&Mack

    Senior Member
    Korea & Korean
    Thank you Categenesis and Gwan. It seems like I was kind of hoping to build up a new rule in English. :D

    I really appreciate your answers.

    All the very best,
    M&M
     

    dg_spain

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hello, Mack&Mack, I have been looking in some grammar references to try to find an answer to your question about relative clauses, and so far I haven't found many examples with two. However, looking again at your Bill Gates example, here's what I think. Other forum members have already said that the sentence clearly means that interventions are not being delivered. In this case, instead of making two sentences whose subjects (the inexpensive interventions) would have been the same, Gates said the two things he wanted to about the interventions in the same sentence.

    I am unable to find much information about the double clause, but although it seems to be very rare in grammar references, Gates' sentence does not sound odd to me! Here's one reference I found: http://www.englishforums.com/English/DoubleRelativeClause/blzwl/post.htm
    (and by the way, there seem to be quite a lot of documents about a possible double relative clause in Korean!)
     

    Mack&Mack

    Senior Member
    Korea & Korean
    Hello, Mack&Mack, I have been looking in some grammar references to try to find an answer to your question about relative clauses, and so far I haven't found many examples with two. However, looking again at your Bill Gates example, here's what I think. Other forum members have already said that the sentence clearly means that interventions are not being delivered. In this case, instead of making two sentences whose subjects (the inexpensive interventions) would have been the same, Gates said the two things he wanted to about the interventions in the same sentence.

    I am unable to find much information about the double clause, but although it seems to be very rare in grammar references, Gates' sentence does not sound odd to me! Here's one reference I found: http://www.englishforums.com/English/DoubleRelativeClause/blzwl/post.htm
    (and by the way, there seem to be quite a lot of documents about a possible double relative clause in Korean!)

    Thank you dg_spain so much indeed. When I speak or write English, it is hard to think in English. So I translate what is in my head or mind into English, then I get stuck in such thoughts.

    As you mentioned, I think it is quite common for Koreans to have a double relative clause, and that's where the problem comes in.

    Thank you for the post and everything. I really appreciate your help.:)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree with Gwan. As often, is logic and sense that determine the meaning. This is how you know that both relative clauses modify inventions. There is no fixed grammatical rule. It is possible that given another sentence with the same structure, logic would tell you that the second clause modified lives.
    For under a dollar, there were interventions that could save lives that were being lost needlessly.
     
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