I sometimes see sentences that begin with "In which", but I can't seem to understand the meaning, e.g.:

In which James demonstrates the presentation he's been working on.

Is this grammatically correct?

  • 12
    I don't think these constructions would normally be called "sentences". It's the kind of thing you used to get as "secondary chapter headings" in Victorian children's story books. Aug 15 '14 at 21:52
  • @FumbleFingers that makes sense, I mostly encounter those in tweets. Aug 15 '14 at 21:54
  • 7
    If you've been taught "It's ungrammatical to use strings other than sentences", you need to realise that that should have been stated "Sentences are the fundamental meaningful portions of verbal communication, as they express a complete idea in a clear way. With care, sentence fragments ('On the table.' 'Over here!' 'John and me at the seaside.' ... ) and substitutes ('Yes.' 'Hello!' 'Really?' ...) may be used, and are quite acceptable when used correctly." Aug 15 '14 at 22:02
  • @EdwinAshworth Yeah!
    – Barmar
    Aug 16 '14 at 10:43
  • 3
    CGEL's coverage of 'secondary chapter headings in Victorian childrens story books' is rather thin. Aug 16 '14 at 14:37

The practice comes from chapter headings of about a hundred years ago, which commonly summarized the chapter the reader was about to read. The best-known examples are Winnie-the-Pooh, with chapter headings like:

"In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle"

In other words: "(This is the chapter) in which..."

They are essentially headlines and so don't have to be complete sentences.

Modern usage refers back to that usage.


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