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Please emend the title; I'm tentative whether it summarises this question precisely.

  1. I went into the store, which if I had seen from the road, I should have known to be a company.

  2. I went into the store, which, if I had seen it from the road, I should have known to be a company.

  3. I went into the store, which if I had seen from the road, I should have known it to be a company.

  4. I went into the store, if I had seen which from the road, I should have known it to be a company.

1 seems the most natural to me. Would someone please compare and contrast the other 4? Are they grammatically correct? If so, how are they?

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    (1) seems incorrect, and (2) seems correct to me. Feb 23, 2014 at 16:02
  • It's definitely UK English, and not American, and it's somewhat dated. No American would ever use should have instead of would have in a hypothetical; should is strictly obligational or advisory in American English. Also I'd have known it to be a company would be I'd have known it was a business in this sense. Old textbook? (BTW, only #2 is correct) Feb 23, 2014 at 16:03
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    The phenomenon you're asking about is relative clause formation, which deletes a noun phrase from some spot in a clause and replaces it at the beginning of the clause as a relative pronoun: The storeʸ [I saw the storeʸ] --> The storeʸ [whichʸ I saw ...ʸ]. The question is whether that can happen to a noun phrase in an adverbial clause that is subordinate to the relative clause. It turns out that that can't happen, since it's already been moved, so it needs a pronoun in the adverbial clause, which is why only #2 is grammatical English. Feb 23, 2014 at 16:13
  • Oh, and even #2 has its problems; you have to pronounce it very carefully -- and deploy a lot of commas in writing -- to make sure that very convoluted clause structure gets understood. #2 is grammatical, but it's very bad writing. Feb 23, 2014 at 16:14
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    What @John said. I think what makes it extra bad is than in colloquial spoken English most people would probably end with "... I would have known was a company". So when you hear the actual form, you think "this sounds like relatively formal phrasing". Which makes the missing "it" stand out more than it otherwise would have done. Feb 23, 2014 at 16:33

4 Answers 4

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John Lawler answers this effectively in the comments:

The phenomenon you're asking about is relative clause formation, which deletes a noun phrase from some spot in a clause and replaces it at the beginning of the clause as a relative pronoun: The storeʸ [I saw the storeʸ] --> The storeʸ [whichʸ I saw ...ʸ]. The question is whether that can happen to a noun phrase in an adverbial clause that is subordinate to the relative clause. It turns out that that can't happen, since it's already been moved, so it needs a pronoun in the adverbial clause, which is why only #2 is grammatical English.

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I think you're shooting for the less-used subjunctive mood:

I went into the store; had I seen it from the road, I would have known it as a company.

('As' is still rather formal here, but less so than the infinitive 'to be'.) Note that I chose to separate the subjunctive part from the action, as they're related, but they're both independent clauses in this construction.

More likely you'd use 'if' to express the subjunctive:

If I had seen it from the road, I would have known it was a company before I went in.

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  • I'd be interested to know why this answer was downvoted. Apr 28, 2014 at 18:33
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#2, #3 are both right, which you want depends on what you intended to mean. #4 is in doubt. #1 is not right because one reference is missing either from the subordinate or main relative clause.

A similar sentence could be:

The book which if you study thoroughly, you will surely pass the exam is now available in the book store.

The comments posted by other people before me didn't quite get your question. You were not asking for a better way to say the thing, you were asking if the sentence you had made, though pretty awkward, are grammatically correct in terms of structure.

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  • All of the sentences are incorrect. These are all inappropriately stated conditional clauses. "If I had seen this, I would have known that" — not "should have".

  • Sentences 1 & 2 are incorrect: Parenthetical expressions require commas on both sides: "If I had seen it from the road" is an adverb clause being used as a parenthetical expression; hence, it requires two commas, not one.

  • All of the sentences are incorrect: You are attempting to omit your direct object from clearly transitive verbs.

    1. I had seen it, I would have known it —
    2. I would have known it —
    3. I had seen it —
    4. I had seen it
  • Sentence 4 is incorrect: You have two independent clauses and one adverb clause — at no point did you properly join the two independent clauses. Welcome to the world of comma splices.

  • Sentences 1–3 are incorrect: Let's assume for a second that I am okay with you using an adjective clause to express this idea (which I am not). Even if it were okay, you would not be saying "which I had seen". The two ideas: "I went into a store", "I should have known it to be a company." The second sentence is being used to identify the store in the first sentence. This is the actual definition of a restrictive clause. That being said, you would say "a store that I should have known to be..." and drop out the comma.

There are more errors, and your syntax has deprived your sentence of its intended meaning, but no one seems to want to tell you that.

Long story short: None of them are even close to grammatically correct.

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    Why are you being so nasty? You don't have to answer any of these questions. Apr 24, 2014 at 21:20
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    @medica Now don't ruin the fun! :) -- Tonight I'm going to get a fresh, hot bag of popcorn and check this thread for entertainment. I've skimmed this member's posts, and so far, he's demonstrated a misunderstanding of it-clefts and relative clauses. I don't have the time or energy right now to, er, "correct" his misunderstandings.
    – F.E.
    Apr 24, 2014 at 21:43
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    @F.E. - pop some extra, send it my way, and I'll sit back and enjoy as well! ') Apr 24, 2014 at 21:47

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