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Taken from the Barron's SAT prep book:

  1. "Ron liked to play word games, of which he found crossword puzzles particularly satisfying."

According to the answers this is an unidiomatic phrase that is too wordy and they fix it by adding a semi-colon and making the second clause into an independent one:

  1. "Ron liked to play word games; he found crossword puzzles particularly satisfying."

My question: how is and which part of the first sentence unidiomatic, and how is it better than the second one?

In the first sentence the "of which" conveys the idea that the second clause is a part of the first, as opposed to the second sentence in which the semi-colon only expresses a connection between the two clauses.

Here's the exact copy of the question for those who are interested:

Crossword puzzles

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  • 1
    Good question! From this native speaker's perspective, the first example sounds truly awful. But I can't see how to put this down to anything other than "idiomaticity", since there doesn't seem to be anything clearly distinguishing it from "Ron has studied many Shakespearean plays, of which Hamlet is his favourite". Which I don't say is truly "unproblematic", but it's nowhere near as bad as the SAT example. And I expect there are other similar constructions that wouldn't bother me at all. – FumbleFingers Nov 3 '14 at 22:22
  • 1
    Unlike the sentence in the original question, this Hamlet sentence can be broken up into two separate sentences - Ron has studied many Shakespeare plats. Hamlet is his favourite of them / of Shakespeare's plays." That's why the single sentence with the relative clause works. – tunny Nov 3 '14 at 22:27
  • @FumbleFingers See Tunny's excellent answer below (beat me to it harrumph). Your sentence is fine because it could be reconstrued as: Ron has studied many Shakespeare plays. Hamlet is his favorite of them – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 3 '14 at 22:29
  • @tunny Aaargh you did it again! :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 3 '14 at 22:30
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Your relative clause has a gap in it where [of which] has moved to the front. The antecedent for which is Sh plays. Your relative clause therefore is 'of which Hamlet is his favourite [of Sh's plays]'. The OP's antecedent is word puzzles. His relative clause with the gap in brackets: of which he found crossword puzzles [of word puzzles] particularly satisfying. That is literally the make-up of each clause ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 3 '14 at 23:13
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"Ron liked to play word games, of which he found crossword puzzles particularly satisfying."

Break this up into two separate sentences -"Ron liked to play word games. He found crossword puzzles of them / of word games particularly satisfying." The second sentence, which is what would be transformed into your relative clause just does not work; neither does the relative clause.

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  • tunny (and @Araucaria ) -- Are you saying that the OP's #1 example (with the relative clause) is a bad sentence, or a good sentence? – F.E. Nov 4 '14 at 9:01
  • @ F.E. - I said that it does not work. It is grammatically unsound. – tunny Nov 4 '14 at 9:35
  • Tunny, you need to make sure there is no space between the "@" symbol and my userid, else I won't get notified. – F.E. Nov 4 '14 at 9:51
  • @Araucaria and tunny: So, just confirming here, both of you would consider the version with "the" in it to also be unsound: ""Ron liked to play word games, of which he found the crossword puzzles particularly satisfying." -- (Aside: tunny, notice how I put in Araucaria's name; actually, I typed "@a" and the input box filled in the rest for me.) – F.E. Nov 4 '14 at 9:54
  • @F.E. I find it marginally better, and I find the RC of which he found crossword puzzles [of word puzzles] particularly satisfying marginally better. However I find the generic use of the with singular noun in Ron liked to play word games, of which he found the crossword puzzle particularly satisfying resolves the problem - the corresponding reconstituted RC is also better. HOWEVER, the specific difficulty with the original is not ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 4 '14 at 12:22

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