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I am not sure how to use of which here. I do know I could use whose, I would just like to understand this structure more.

Each bag contains a number of bank notes (bills).

And now:

Select the bag the sum of notes of which is 1000.


Select the bag of which the sum of notes is 1000.

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You might like our sister site English Language Learners –  Matt Эллен Apr 12 '13 at 10:45
I personally wouldn't use whose unless it referred to a person. –  KitFox Apr 12 '13 at 13:53
Most people would, though; it falutes a little too high for conversation, but not for precise description. –  John Lawler Apr 12 '13 at 14:23
In which works much better in the second sentence, since it's a bag. And the first sentence is completely ungrammatical. "Of which" is not an idiom; it's produced by grammatical rules, and it can work with any preposition if it's there to start with.. –  John Lawler Apr 12 '13 at 14:26
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closed as not a real question by MετάEd, TimLymington, Kristina Lopez, kiamlaluno, aedia λ Apr 12 '13 at 19:17

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3 Answers

I think you're asking one relative pronoun and one participle to do just a little bit too much work here. If you ignore the Select temporarily and turn what's left around, the problem is evident:

This bag's sum of notes is 1000.

This is awkward because the sum is not directly a property of the bag but of the notes. It is the notes which are a property of the bag.

What you want is a graceful way to designate the indirect relationship. One solution would be to introduce a second participle phrase:

Select the bag in which the sum of the notes is 1000.

A briefer way would be to use sum as a verb instead of a noun:

Select the bag whose notes sum to 1000.

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Thanks. However as I mentioned, I am interested in the usage of "of which". I do know I could say it otherwise. –  Pietros Apr 12 '13 at 10:50
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Neither is really suitable, and nor is whose, because the bag is not the sum of anything other than the materials it’s made of. What you have to do is refer not to the bag but its contents. That means that all these are possible sentences:

Select the bag the sum of whose contents is 1000 notes.

Select the bag the sum of the contents of which is 1000 notes.

Select the bag the sum of which the contents is 1000 notes.

The first is the most satisfactory one. If you really want to use of which, use the one that places of which after contents.

If you really wanted to speak of the sum of the bag, the possibilities would be:

Select the bag whose sum is 1000 notes.

Select the bag the sum of which is 1000 notes.

Select the bag of which the sum is 1000 notes.

The first is preferable, but I emphasise that referring to the sum of a bag, rather than its contents, sounds strange.

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Not sure if I get your comment - the bag contains money (bills) and you ask for the sum of the money it contains. –  Pietros Apr 12 '13 at 10:32
@Pietros. Exactly. You ask for the sum of money the bag contains (the contents), not for the sum of the bag itself. –  Barrie England Apr 12 '13 at 10:33
So it cannot be said with the "notes"? (meaning it is its content). And can I not say "The bag whose sum of its content"? –  Pietros Apr 12 '13 at 10:40
I hope that the edit I have just made to my answer will make it a little clearer. –  Barrie England Apr 12 '13 at 10:55
Well I did not make it clear, I guess. By sum I mean the actual sum of the notes value (2 notes with (of?) 50 pounds value = sum is 100 pounds). –  Pietros Apr 12 '13 at 10:59
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The bag which: Select the bag which contains a total of $1000 in notes

Perhaps this works, but I am not totally sure of the grammar

The notes which: Select the bag containing only notes, the sum of which amounts to $1000

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