Whose / of which – Which one is more formal?

Karraspito

Senior Member
Spanish from Spain
Hello everyone.
I have a doubt. I have been reading A LOT about the dichotomy "whose" (applied to inanimate things) vs. "of which". I know that "whose" can be used for inanimate objects, that even Shakespeare used it that way, and that there are some purist people who don't like it applied to anything other than people or animals. What I don't know yet, because I haven't seen anyone mention it, is which of the two is more formal, although I would bet "of which" is.

The sentence is as follows:
"I am in possession of Cambridge CELTA, whose attainment requires a vast knowledge of English"
"I am in possession of Cambridge CELTA, the attainment of which requires a vast knowledge of English"

I know both of them are grammatically correct, but given that the register must be extremely formal (as it's an application for a very high official body), I guess the second option is the most suitable. Can anyone please confirm it or disprove it? Thank you very much in advance!
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I'd have no hesitation in choosing option 2.

    (There's no need to be so pompous, even if it is an application to "a very high official body". There's no merit at all in avoiding "I hold/have/possess". In fact, "I am in possession of" can imply that I don't have a right to it!)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think "the attainment of which" is more suitable for that sentence.

    ...CELTA, whose attainment... can suggest "the attainment belonging to CELTA" as well as "the attainment (by you) of the CELTA. A small point, but enough to make me reject it in favour of "of which". To avoid pomposity, I'd rephrase.
     

    Karraspito

    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    I think "the attainment of which" is more suitable for that sentence.

    ...CELTA, whose attainment... can suggest "the attainment belonging to CELTA" as well as "the attainment (by you) of the CELTA. A small point, but enough to make me reject it in favour of "of which". To avoid pomposity, I'd rephrase.
    Can you elaborate, please?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I mean that for me the sentence does sound pompous, overall. I wouldn't be too impressed by a candidate who was deliberately trying to sound "formal", but overdoing it. I'd have written the sentence differently, but we are not supposed to do rewrites here.

    I agree that the "of which" construction usually sounds more formal or stilted than one using "whose".
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    the register must be extremely formal (as it's an application for a very high official body)
    I rather suspect that the people reading your application won't give two hoots for formality of language, but will look for clarity, and probably succinctness. I cannot imagine anyone thinking "I am in possession of" being better than "I have" unless a legal or contractual distinction needs to be made, which is not the case here.
     

    Karraspito

    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    Thanks to everyone for your feedback. It's funny how this pomposity issue is so different from Spanish to English. In Spanish, certain level of what would be considered as over formality by Britons, would be perfectly acceptable, even recommended.
    Another thing to consider is that the people reading my application are unlikely to be all native, so maybe some of them are impressed by the pomposity... just joking, I'll try and change it. :D
     
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