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Consider this statement.

The maximum number of solutions is given by the formula, x * x. For example, consider the case, x = 2, when this maximum is 4.

I thought there is a minor ambiguity in the above sentence with the phrase, "when this". I can intuitively get what is meant, is there any mistake or is any of the following formats better?

  • For example, consider the case, x = 2, the maximum is 4.
  • For example, when x = 2, the maximum is 4.

I want to know the correct usage of the phrase, "when this" used to refer a previous condition in the sentence.

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  • when I read, "when this maximum is 4", I thought the sentence was in reverse order. I don't see more than one meaning here. Dec 19, 2015 at 0:30
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    "This" is essentially interchangeable with "the" here, except rather than just "the" it's "the thing I just mentioned." If you substitute "the," does the sentence make more sense? Dec 19, 2015 at 0:36
  • You mean, replace "when this" by "the", then it makes sense. Dec 19, 2015 at 15:03
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    "When this" is not a unit here, it's "when" and "this." The "when" is needed or else the meaning changes. Dec 19, 2015 at 15:06
  • If I use "the" instead of "this", the sentence becomes. "For example, consider the case, x = 2, when the maximum is 4." The substitution is not making the sentence in the form of a derivative, "if this, then that", the word when is confusing here. Am I missing something? Dec 19, 2015 at 15:18

1 Answer 1

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The sentence is grammatically correct as written. The primary source of the confusion is probably because of the "phrase" x = 2.

ORIGINAL: The maximum number of solutions is given by the formula, x * x. For example, consider the case, x = 2, when this maximum is 4.

The first sentence introduces the idea that we are referring to a maximum. This is important only because it helps us understand that we are talking about a maximum, which helps us to understand the use of "this" in the subsequent sentence.

So let's look at the second sentence:

ORIGINAL: For example, consider the case, x = 2, when this maximum is 4.

SIMPLIFIED: Consider the case when this maximum is 4.

This is semantically essentially the same as "Consider the case when the maximum is 4"; the use of this just helps tie it back to the first sentence.

This sentence has a similar structure as the following (grammatical) sentences:

The scenario where that happens is unlikely.

I am interested in the time when you were away.

Tell me about the scenario when that happens.

Your sentence is correct because you have an adjectival clause (when this maximum is 4) that modifies the noun case. The word when is needed to introduce the clause "this maximum is 4."

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