It will vary amongst database systems who has what function, or even whether they use the same function name.

Asked a native English speaker "does this sentence make sense to you?". His answers was "yes". Well, it sure doesn't make any sense to me, neither grammatically nor semantically. Help me figure what's going on here.

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    Extraposition is not always a good idea for complex sentences. Having more than one variable who, what function always introduces lots of complexity. If there's more than one, you probly want a simpler structure and several sentences. Remember: extra sentences don't cost more. – John Lawler Mar 29 '14 at 16:42

It will vary amongst database systems who has what function, or even whether they use the same function name.

deciphered to:

It will vary amongst database systems who (which user role) has what function, or even whether they (the database systems) use the same function name (for the same function).


  1. different database systems
  2. have the same names for user roles
  3. but these roles, having the same name, don't always have the same function(s) assigned to them
  4. and these function(s), assigned to the user roles, though having the same name, also don't always map to the same actual functionality

Or in other words. The good thing about standards is there are so many to choose from. Or better yet. Language: A puzzle for everybody!

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    I thought the ‘who’ was just a not-very-good use of an animate pronoun where an inanimate ‘which’ would have been better. But thinking more closely about it, your interpretation of a literal ‘who’ as referring to users or user roles makes more sense. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 29 '14 at 9:38
  • I'm not sure it-clefts ending with a noun group are often used with embedded questions like this. As Janus says (in his 'answer' rather than 'comment') then for some reason deletes, it's a bit garden pathy. 'It is not easy to say who has what function ...' poses no such problem. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 '14 at 10:01
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    @Edwin, I deleted the answer because this answer made me realise that it was most likely not correct. Better not to confuse the asker any more by leaving up an incorrect answer. :-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 29 '14 at 10:05
  • @Janus If it confused you (and I certainly need more information to reference the 'who' and define 'function'; DisplayName seems more IT-savvy than us), I think the best advice to OP is 'It's confusing if not strictly ungrammatical'. I'd say it certainly needs rephrasing. The point I made about the phrasing (which is relevant on this website) echoes your first point 'It's not a particularly well-worded sentence.' 'It will be left to you when they die' and 'It will depend on John when we arrive' are certainly ambiguous without context. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 '14 at 16:10

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