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Three Laws of Thermodynamics (paraphrased): First Law: You can't get anything without working for it. Second Law: The most you can accomplish by work is to break even. Third Law: You can't break even.

I stumbled across the above joke (from the webmaster's viewpoint, but see jwpat7's comment) and it made me wonder if "paraphrasing an equation" can be used in a more formal context. The construction I have in mind is

First, I consider the relation between mass and energy, which, paraphrasing, says that ...

Is this construct acceptable?

In the second quote, relation stands for mathematical relation in specific reference to an equation. A more accurate example is the following

First, I consider the equation relating mass to energy, which, paraphrasing, says that ...

Bonus question: which or that?

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closed as not a real question by Carlo_R., tchrist, J.R., jwpat7, Mitch Jul 26 '12 at 20:21

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

In my opinion, your second example is more along the lines of a true paraphrase. Paraphrase: express the meaning of something using different words, esp. to achieve greater clarity (NOAD). – J.R. Jul 21 '12 at 15:20
Please edit your question and fix the several errors in "I stumbled [this][1] joke". By "stumbled" do you mean you don't understand, or you encountered? Was "[this][1]" supposed to link somewhere? Are you referring to something in your first quote as a joke? If so specifically point out which words are the joke. Note, Ginsberg's theorem, which what you quote is a mangled version of, contains three statements of fact based on laws of thermodynamics, and though some may think them funny they are not actually a joke. – jwpat7 Jul 21 '12 at 17:30

Because you're actually making an adjective clause, the overriding consideration should be the word relation.

In the previous joke that you cited, the noun being used is law, as in "Law of Thermodynamics."

If you're going to continue using "relation" (or relationship) as your noun:

I consider the relation between mass and energy, which

Unlike with the noun law, it doesn't work so well to say "paraphrase a relation." So it's better to use an expression other than paraphrase.

Perhaps something along the lines of:

  • simply put/ put simply

  • in layman's terms/ in simple terms


Either this or use the noun "law" as in the original.

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Oh... I didn't realize the "paraphrasing a relation" part. – asymptotically Jul 21 '12 at 19:25
@Ryogi, if you do a quick search, the word "relationship" will mostly appear with "mass" and "energy." But yes, "relation" is also possible. IMO, the relationships will be defined through "laws," and the laws can then be paraphrased. The thing is, most people are familiar with the things you wanna talk about as the "Laws of Thermodynamics," so it would be alienating and confusing to call them differently – Cool Elf Jul 22 '12 at 4:53

For the last sentence, the correct thing to say would be "which, on paraphrasing, shows that" or "which, on paraphrasing, reveals that". You're trying to show that an action has been done upon the "relation", which results in what you proceed to say.

Both "which" and "that" are acceptable, but when you use "which," you need a phrase after it, so it should be followed by a comma. IF you use "that," you don't need to, since it's a clause.

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