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Is this construction allowed in English? The relevant part is set in bold:

"This is especially vital for technology companies such as Google or Apple, that, while they are in fierce competition with each other, strive to create islands of cooperation and creativity within their organisation to create a climate conducive to innovation."

The question is: Can you introduce a second subordinate clause immediately after another one?

If this is not allowed or considered bad style, is there another way instead of rearranging the sentence in the following way (and reversing the logical order):

"This is especially vital for technology companies such as Google or Apple, that strive to create islands of cooperation and creativity within their organisation to create a climate conducive to innovation, while they are in fierce competition with each other."

Thanks!

  • 2
    I see no problem with this construction, and use something like it almost every day. Though, for an official answer, I will defer to an expert who, though a stranger to me, I trust to answer more authoritatively. – Nick2253 Mar 9 '15 at 17:38
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    There either needs to be a comma before such as Google, or no comma after Apple. That begins a restrictive relative clause, and not a non-restrictive one, which the comma would mark. .. companies such as Google or Apple that, while .. each other, strive to .. That construction's allowed in English. But be careful of using commas before relative clauses starting with that. Which can swing both ways, but that only appears in restrictive relative clauses. – John Lawler Mar 9 '15 at 18:18
  • Sounds okay, to me. The comma before that is needed to help readers figure out that the relative clause goes with technology companies. – Greg Lee Mar 10 '15 at 23:34
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With the correct punctuation, both constructions are appropriate:

This is especially vital for technology companies, such as Google or Apple, that, while they are in fierce competition with each other, strive to create islands of cooperation and creativity within their organisation to create a climate conducive to innovation.

Makes essentially the same point as:

This is especially vital for technology companies, such as Google or Apple, that strive to create islands of cooperation and creativity within their organisation to create a climate conducive to innovation, while they are in fierce competition with each other.


With the commas in place, such as identifies Google and Apple as specific examples of technology companies that strive to create islands of cooperation and creativity.

The restrictive relative clause: that strive to create islands of cooperation and creativity within their organisation to create a climate conducive to innovation, is embedded in the independent clause, and it identifies what kind of technology companies are being discussed. It is also a matrix clause, because an adverbial subordinate clause is embedded in it.

The conjunction while embeds an adverbial subordinate clause within the restrictive clause. The subordinate adverbial clause modifies strive with the concurrent state of being: are in competition. A subordinate clause can be positioned before or after the main verb of the matrix clause, depending on the desired emphasis.


While communicates that strive to create is concurrent with are in fierce competition, so the order of the phrases has no impact on the logic of contrasting them.

The primary function of [while] as a conjunction is to indicate that two separate clauses occur at the same time.

Deciding which construction makes your point more effectively is a matter of style, which ELU doesn't address, but your climate metaphor has potential. Since an internal climate of cooperation is being contrasted with an external climate of competition:

This is especially vital for technology companies, such as Google or Apple, that cooperate in a climate of creative innovation within their organisations, while competing fiercely against each other.


www.grammarbook.com

en.wikipedia.org

  • 1
    perhaps you could add an explanation of the relationship between the clauses. – Good A.M. Mar 10 '15 at 18:56

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