I'm a Chinese and have learned English for many years. These days I've started to teach English to other Chinese people. But I get confused about the usage of relative clauses and I really want to know whether the following sentences are grammatically acceptable. If the answer is yes, then are they frequently used in everyday English?

  1. The engineer whose design is selected will be offered a contract.(Can the relative pronoun "whose" here be replaced by "of whom the design"?)
  2. This is the scientist whose achievements are well known.(Can I say "This is the scientist, the achievements of whom are well known"?)

further question: can "of whom" be used in defining relative clauses to express the concept of possession?

Thanks a lot!

1 Answer 1


They can be so replaced, and the result will be grammatical and have the desired meaning; but it sounds very stilted and unnatural to me.

The second sounds better than the first to me: I think because of the change in word order. There is no reason to replace 'whose' by 'of whom' in situ, so it sounds very unnatural. In the second case, you have moved the relative within the clause where 'whose' would not be grammatical, so the change is better motivated and less awkward.

  • Thanks! Your answer really helps a lot! But I am still wondering if "whose" is much more commonly used than "of whom" in spoken English? And what about I say "A contract will be offered to the engineer of whom the design is selected"? Is it still awkward?
    – EnMatt
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 7:50
  • Yes indeed, @EnMatt. Many people do not use "whom" in speech at all, and very few people would use "of whom" when they can use "whose". Of whom is only used when whose is not available because of is not a possessive. The most common examples are phrases like "one of whom", "many of whom"; but in speech most people would not even use these forms, but would start a new sentence and say "one of them" or "one of these". Another use, again mostly in writing, is "a man of whom it was said ... "
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 10:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.