who continued to play [nonessential clause refers to?]

passengerman

Senior Member
chinese
Brian said goodnight to his roommate Justin, who continued to play video games until his eyes were blurry with fatigue

Hi all;

Does "his" refer to Brian or Justin ?:rolleyes:
 
  • EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Does "his" refer to Brian or Justin ?
    I'm not sure I agree with Franco-filly here. The way I understand the rule is that 'who' - but not necessarily 'his' - must refer to Justin. Only from context can we conclude that 'his eyes' are Justin's eyes. If they had happened to be Brian's (which semantically would make for a strange sentence), then it would have been necessary to say not 'his eyes' but 'Brian's eyes' in order to lead the reader in the right direction.
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Go to the most recent person and it's Justin. If the writer meant Brian he would have had to write Brian.
    Do you mean that we don't need context in order to figure out to whom possessives refer in relative clauses? If so, how would we reason in the following case:

    Brian said 'I'm out of here' to his roommate Justin, who grabbed hold of his hand and kept it until his eyes met Clara's.

    To whom does 'his eyes' refer in this sentence? (Personally I don't think there is any rule that can tell us who.)
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    The "who" refers to Justin. Justing is doing the grabbing, he won't be grabbing his own hand, if her were grabbing Clara's hand it would say her hand, therefore he must be grabbing Brian's hand. If it were anyone else's the author would have had to write ... hold of X's hand. Likewise, "and kept it until his eyes" is still referring to Justin. The author would have to have added X's eyes if they were anyone but Justins.
     
    Last edited:

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    Do you mean that we don't need context in order to figure out to whom possessives refer in relative clauses? If so, how would we reason in the following case:

    Brian said 'I'm out of here' to his roommate Justin, who grabbed hold of his hand and kept it until his eyes met Clara's.

    To whom does 'his eyes' refer in this sentence? (Personally I don't think there is any rule that can tell us who.)

    The rule I was taught is it is the last person mentioned, so both the hand and the eyes would be Justin's. Clearly that's not intended. I agree that context is important, but in my view the context should never contradict the rule. So to me the sentence, "Brian yelled at Justin and then went back to doing his homework" is not a good one. It is clear from context that it is Brian's homework, but the grammar suggests it is Justin's.
     
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