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PCAs are usually assigned to an individual with a physical, mental, behavioral, or emotional handicap; whom they work with throughout the year.

Is this sentence grammatically correct? I know that semicolons are sometimes used when you have a list at the beginning of the sentence, to prevent confusion. Is that accurate?

Also, would "who" or "whom" be proper in this usage? I thought it would be "whom" because it's referring to the person who is helped, not the person who is helping, but I am not completely sure.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, you don’t want a semi-colon there. A comma will do. Whom is grammatical, but so, too, would who be in an informal context.

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This seems to me a formal enough context to require whom; I wonder if it is formal enough to need with whom they work. –  TimLymington Feb 21 '13 at 14:37
    
@TimLymington - "I wonder if it is formal enough to need with whom they work" - see the answers to this question. –  dj18 Feb 21 '13 at 15:45
    
@dj18; Nice catch but, since this isn't the end of the sentence, irrelevant. The point is whether the relative should precede the pronoun it refers to/to which it refers. In much formal language the answer is no. –  TimLymington Feb 21 '13 at 16:04
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But who decides the degree of formality that necessitates these 'requires', 'needs' and 'shoulds'? –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 21 '13 at 17:52
    
@Edwin Ashworth. The writer. –  Barrie England Feb 21 '13 at 18:48
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I think I might be tempted to use a dash after the heavily-commaed list, merely for ease on the reader's eye:

PCAs are usually assigned to an individual with a physical, mental, behavioral, or emotional handicap - whom they work with throughout the year.

(I wouldn't suggest the use here of a semi-colon as a 'super comma', though I'm happy to use it thus in lists containing sub-lists.) I would read the following two sentences differently:

Trainee dog-trainers often have to deal with dogs with physical, mental, behavioural, or emotional problems, which they work with throughout the year.

Trainee dog-trainers often have to deal with dogs with physical, mental, behavioural, or emotional problems - which they work with throughout the year.

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If you like the semicolon as a break between the comma-separated list and the next clause, you need to convert that clause from dependent to independent:

PCAs are usually assigned to an individual with a physical, mental, behavioral, or emotional handicap; they work with this person throughout the year.

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