[INCORRECT] I did not attend the rally, which was very unpatriotic of me.

The word which has no single, clear antecedent. Instead, it refers to the entire clause - "I did not attend the rally." However, a pronoun must always refer to a single, clear, unmistakable NOUN ANTECEDENT.

I excerpt this from this webpage. This is kind of what I was taught in school about the proper use of "which." I was told that "which" must be used to refer to only the noun that comes before the comma, like in these sentences:

The science fair, which lasted all day, ended with an awards ceremony.

We drove past my old school, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

However, these are example sentences in Purdue's article about relative pronouns:

The movie turned out to be a blockbuster hit, which came as a surprise to critics.

My friend eventually decided to get divorced, which upset me a lot.

But the, Purdue OWL also came up with this example:

INCORRECT: Vacation is coming soon, which is nice. (What is nice, the vacation or the fact that it is coming soon?)

Cambridge Dictionary suggests that "which" can refer to the whole sentence before it:

She had to get up and walk all the way to the other side of the room, which isn’t easy with a bad back. (which refers to the whole sentence before it)

Now, also according to Cambridge Dictionary, using a relative clause to refer to a whole clause or a whole sentence is only often used in informal speaking:

Some relative clauses refer to a whole clause, a whole sentence, or a longer stretch of language. We always use which to introduce these clauses.

We often use these clauses in informal speaking to express an opinion or evaluation (In the examples, the relative clause is in bold, and the clause or person that is referred to is underlined.):

I think the other thing that was really good about it as well was that everybody worked really hard and helped tidy up at the end, which I hadn’t expected at all.

So what is the consensus here?

  • With supplementary (non-defining/non-restrictive) relatives, the antecedent can be almost any phrase or even an entire clause. – BillJ Dec 29 '16 at 16:34
  • The excerpt at the beginning is total BS, hence so is the website it came from. As you have noticed, anybody at all can say anything they want about what's grammatically correct in English, and as long as they put it on the Web, somebody will believe them. Don't look for grammar explanations on the web. – John Lawler Dec 29 '16 at 22:48

I believe this is another of those zombie rules that is not based in actual usage. Certainly, which was used to refer to phrases and sentences by celebrated authors in the 19th century:

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:

"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better ..."

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist:

... in order that, if they were pursued, the money might be found on her: which would leave him an opportunity of asserting his innocence of any theft, and would greatly facilitate his chances of escape.

George Eliot, Middlemarch:

She was seated, as she observed, on her own brother's hearth, and had been Jane Featherstone five-and-twenty years before she had been Jane Waule, which entitled her to speak when her own brother's name had been made free with by those who had no right to it.

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  • A better answer than given at the duplicate I've found. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '16 at 17:31
  • And more references than JL gave at the other one . – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '16 at 17:44

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