I became a little unsure regarding to grammar while writing a sentence that, "... will either pass through the top-right or bottom-left corner, during which ...", in which case "which" has an implied antecedent of "passing through". I believe this sentence is clear enough, but wonder whether such usage of "which" may be disapproved in formal or academic writing.

more examples:
"He resigned that post, after which he engaged in ranching."
"He died of cancer, which is what I predicted"

  • 1
    In your examples, which references something like the fact of the preceding statement being true, or the thing described by the preceding statement. It's perfectly normal English, and there's no suggestion it's in any way "loose" or "improper". You're just being misled by simplistic usage descriptions suggesting that which always references ordinary nouns, just because that's the simplest and most common case. Sep 26, 2014 at 16:23
  • @FumbleFingers Do you think during which time might be slightly better? Sep 26, 2014 at 16:37
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    @Araucaria: We don't have the full context of an actual sentence within which OP's fragment might occur, which might affect any preference. If I'd wanted to, I could have introduced an explicit noun there (...which lack might affect things), but I don't see why that would be "better". By the same token, OP could introduce, say, time or passage - both perfectly possible, but they're just (very slightly stilted, IMHO) stylistic variations, not really "improvements" in any objective sense. Sep 26, 2014 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


In the first case, use two sentences; figuring out the geometry has used up this one.

  • .. will pass through either the top-right or the bottom-left corner. During this transition, ...
    (also, move either closer to the disjunction, and repeat the article to clarify it)

"Such usage of which" is not "frowned on"; but it does require a lot of interpretation by the reader.
What passes for good writing mostly is just not loading too much information into one sentence.
I.e, this is not a grammatical problem -- the relative clause is well-formed -- but a writing problem.

As can be seen in the other two examples

  • He resigned that post, after which he engaged in ranching.

  • He died of cancer, which is what I predicted.

a relative clause referring to a prior clause is perfectly grammatical. Even a preferred choice, provided one doesn't expect a simple structure to do all the heavy lifting involved in description.


The first example looks fine to me, though a clearer alternative may be:

He resigned his post, then engaged in ranching.


He resigned his post, before taking up ranching.

In the second example, the following reads better:

He died of cancer, as I had predicted.

replacing the "which" and changing the tense of your historical prediction.

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